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One Missed Call
Year: 2003
Kou Shibasaki
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Kou Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Atsushi Ida, Anna Nagata, Mariko Tsusui
The Skinny: Cult favorite Takashi Miike takes a stab at J-Horror with the box office hit One Missed Call, a film that sets out in graphic fashion to prove that cell phones really are hazardous to your health. Although highly derivative of other Asian horror favorites, the film is saved by its lead actress and a strong final act. The film does manage to entertain at times, but it's still all the same stuff we've seen before. As with films of this sort, your mileage will vary.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Takashi Miike, known for such genuinely disturbing films as Audition and Ichi the Killer, tries his hand at more straightforward frights with One Missed Call, a by-the-numbers horror flick that takes the tried-and-true formula established by Hideo Nakata's Ring, substituting that film's infamous VHS tape with an equally destructive cell phone message. Cell phone owners with plenty of "anytime minutes" are duly warned.
     One Missed Call revolves around Yumi Nakamura (Go's Kou Shibasaki), whose college buddies are suddenly dropping like flies, one by one. The trouble begins when her friend Yoko (Anna Nagata) gets a puzzling message left on her cell phone, followed by a bloodcurdling scream. But that's not the end of the weirdness because 1) when the call came, the ringtone changed into a spooky song, 2) the call came from her own phone, 3) it was placed some seventy-two hours in the future, and 4) both the voice and scream on the message belong to Yoko. Clearly, nothing good can come from this.
     Seventy-two hours later, bad things do happen to poor Yoko, and that tragedy is soon followed by the untimely demise of one of Yumi's other friends, Kenji (Atsushi Isa), under eerily similar circumstances. Next up in the wheel of misfortune is Yumi's best gal pal, Natsumi (Kazue Fukiishi). But this time around, the press has gotten wind of the "killer cell phone call" connection and turned Natsumi's date with destiny into a ratings stunt, asking her to appear on a live television broadcast as the deadline fast approaches. Feeling that it might be the key to her safety, she agrees.
     Meanwhile, Yumi enlists the help of Yamashita (Shinichi Tsutsumi), whose sister was one of the first victims of this curse, and together they search for clues that might save Natsumi. Their quest leads them to an orphanage, an abandoned hospital, and several other places. Eventually, all roads lead to a girl who died under dubious circumstances. Will they be able to save Natsumi and themselves in time or will they all succumb to the killer ringtone of doom? Answers (of a sort, anyway) are given, but to reveal that here would spoil what little fun One Missed Call has to offer.
     Many Miike apologists have claimed that the film is alternatively a brilliant satire and/or parody of the recent wave of Asian horror films, but that seems to be a disingenuous justification for what clearly seems to be a work-for-hire project. As a satire, there's really nothing socially or culturally relevant to ridicule here, aside from maybe the over-reliance on cell phones in today's world. But to say the film contains that kind of overt cultural commentary feels like a stretch. And as a parody, well, One Missed Call's propensity for aping scenes almost shot-for-shot from other movies doesn't constitute parody, especially when there doesn't seem to be the slightest inkling of any comic intent, except maybe the severed hand that ends up dialing a number - that was funny, intentional or not. Ultimately, Takashi Miike just cashes a paycheck with One Missed Call, a slick commercial horror film sure to deliver the requisite amounts of chills the genre requires, but gives little else in the way of innovation.
     To the film's credit, the TV station segment turns out to be a standout sequence in the movie, one that is strongly reminiscent of the old EC comics like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. In this subplot, One Missed Call takes the rumor-mongering aspect that surrounds J-horror films and puts it into a public forum. The film takes what usually is conventionally confined to the level of an underground urban legend and makes it go mainstream within the narrative itself.
     The final third of the film proves to be its strongest act, especially the scenes in the abandoned hospital. There's a mystery to be solved here, and the momentum helps carry those scenes, even if it all does feel a bit derivative of earlier, better works. Miike's touch can be seen in the film's fakeout ending, which is soon followed by the real one, a head-scratchingly obtuse zinger that proves to be oddly-satisfying, if for no other reason than it deviates from convention.
     If you're looking for a great Asian horror film, One Missed Call isn't that film. It is, however, somewhat of a "greatest hits" package of horror conventions, which may or may not appeal to genre fans. Ultimately, if you're a fan of Takashi Miike, Kou Shibasaki (who delivers a fine performance as Yumi), or horror movies in general, you could do far worse than watching One Missed Call. Believe me, I know. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)

Region 1 NTSC
Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock
Double Disc Special Edition
16 x 9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese and English Dubbed Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
"Making of" Documentary, Interviews, Alternate Ending, Trailers, and more Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen