One Missed Call (2008)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Shannyn Sossamon, Edward Burns, Ana Claudia Talancon, Azura Skye, Ray Wise, Meagan Good and Margaret Cho
Directed by Eric Valette
I must admit upfront that I have never seen the original 2003 Takashi Miike version of One Missed Call. My flirtation with Japanese horror films ended the night I tried watching Uzumaki. Thank goodness there wasn't a handgun within reach or that viewing would have ended with me going all Elvis Presley on my television set. Other than the awesome Death Note movies of the past year I cannot think of a single J-horror movie I've sat through in ages.
Personally, I think the fact that I've never seen the original Chakushin Ari makes me uniquely qualified to review this remake from a completely unbiased perspective. No one can complain that I walked into the theater with any expectations as to how the material should have been handled based on how it was already done, and knowing what tends to get changed both stylistically and tonally when Hollywood remakes a Japanese horror movie anyway ... I went in totally blind with no preconceived notions aside from the gut feeling that the first movie of the new year being a horror movie not screened for critics ahead of time is probably not a good sign. However, I do have three questions I'd like to ask of anyone reading right now who has seen the original Japanese version of this film:
Was the original not scary in the slightest?
Did the original make virtually no sense in the end?
Was the original this lame?
If so on all counts then I suppose kudos is in order to the American filmmakers for having successfully translated the material for American audiences. About the only thing worth praising are the decent production values and the ghostly creature make-up (and CGI), all of which are decent yet ineffective. Nothing is ever as eerie as director Eric Valette wants it to be. For example, a backlit shot of a young girl standing in a doorway shrouded in shadow that's meant to be creepy only succeeds in looking laughably cliché.
Characters keeping getting mysterious calls on their cell phones heralded by a supposedly ominous ringtone that to me sounded more like piano chords on the soundtrack than an actual cellular ringtone; when answered they're creeped out to hear the sounds of their dying words. Characters typically do not answer right away leaving them with the titular "1 Missed Call" message and a voice mail of the sounds of their final moments. Because the calls are dated from a time in the immediate future the person knows the exact day and time when they'll die; they just won't know how. Because there's a supernatural force at play it can even call you with the batteries removed from your phone, later on, even from someone else's phone that couldn't possibly have your number. That's one of the bigger problems with One Missed Call: it often forgets to play by its own rules.
To be perfectly honest, there's really no need to delve into the plot any further than that other than to say it somehow ties into a mysterious fire at a hospital and two young girls and their potentially abusive mother. Characters mainly exist to scream and die and answer their phones - not necessarily in that order.
Shannyn Sossamon seemed poised for big screen superstardom after A Knight's Tale only to see that get stifled after going on to star in some real stinkers; now she can add this one to her increasingly less-than-stellar resume. Here Sossamon does her best Justine Bateman impression playing the young psych student who keeps watching her friends die around her after getting weird phone calls. She gives it her best shot but there's nothing here for her to do but act scared and stare off into space sometimes. Given the quality of this film I can only deem it quite fitting that by the end Sossamon was covered in so much filth she literally looked like she's been dipped in shit.
For reasons that ultimately mean nothing to the story other than a poor attempt to give Sossamon's character some semblance of depth, it'll turn out that she too was an abused child. She'll keep having flashbacks to her own abusive childhood; these flashbacks are handled in a manner only slightly more subtle than Mommy Dearest. From the looks of the interior walls of her house during these flashbacks I can only assume her character grew up in a condemned building. I honestly kept waiting for one of her flashbacks to involve Michael Myers smashing the upholstery with a 2x4 in order to get at her.
Then Mr. Charisma Edward Burns arrives as a cop whose own sister was found dead with an identical piece of hard candy in her mouth just like that found in the mouths of all of Sossamon's dead friends. Thusly, he becomes the only cop willing to believe Sossamon and together they set out to unravel what the hell is going on. I used to think of Edward Burns as the poor man's Ben Affleck but here he struck me as more of a more grizzled Chris O'Donnell.
One Missed Call wants to be The Ring and Final Destination all rolled into one, at least during the first half. All well and good except it isn't anywhere as creepy as The Ring and nowhere near as over the top as the Final Destination films. The whole fatal phone calls aspect fails to elicit even the slightest of chills and the kills are pretty uninspired even for a PG-13 horror flick. The longer it goes on you begin to notice all the films it reminds you of. You'll be sitting there thinking, "This reminds me of The Ring. That reminds me of Final Destination. Now it reminds me of The Grudge. Oh, look, now we're heading into Dead Silence territory." I'm sure there were others too.
One Missed Call has no identity of its own; it's merely an amalgamation of films better and worse that we've already seen, and in some cases films we've already seen remakes of. It even fails to make anything worthwhile out of all the material it retreads. By the time I was watching Sossamon mucking about a decrepit burned-out hospital being chased by ghosts I just wanted the movie to end.
The film finally decided it was going to give up any pretense of making sense and wrap things up in a manner that was not only anti-climactic, it was pretty impossible to watch what happened there and not wonder why the hell a certain character didn't do what they did in the first place and have potentially prevented quite a few innocent lives from being snuffed out.
And what was up with the centipedes? Why did that lady have a house filled with jars full of centipedes? I mean aside from the obvious answer of centipedes are supposed to be creepy crawlies, right? No explanation given. Why?
Almost all of the film's non-existent scares come in the form of lame jump scares. When a jump scare is built around the unnaturally loud sound of an asthma inhaler it's hard not to sit there wondering if this is supposed to be a bad joke.
Speaking of bad jokes, Ray Wise briefly turns up as the host of a TV show called "American Miracles", playing the role with the same toothy smarm he uses when playing Satan himself on the show "Reaper". He's heard about all the strange deaths going on and wants Sossamon's busty Catholic friend who just received a death call to appear on his program to take part in a live exorcism. She does indeed do so leading to a positively ludicrous live television broadcast taking place inside of a church in which a fire and brimstone preacher performs a very spirited exorcism on a cellular phone while the faces on the statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary begin turns demonic. It was during this scene that it had become apparent that One Missed Call was just one jokey rewrite away from being an outright parody of movies like The Ring and The Grudge. For crying out loud, this movie opens with a ghostly hand coming out of a pond to grab a woman by the neck and drag her to her watery grave, and then that hand comes back a second time to grab her cat by the neck and drag it to a watery death. Good grief.
One Missed Call: the first movie of 2008 and already a surefire candidate for worst movie of 2008. It's fitting that all the victims keep ending up with a piece of hard candy in their mouth because this movie sucks hard.
Here's my pull-quote for the ad: "This is one call you should definitely miss."
1 out of 5