Monday, September 1, 2008

One Missed Call review

While at a bar, Yumi’s (Kou Shibasaki) friend Yoko’s cell phone rings with a call coming from itself. Upon checking the message (dated two days in advance at a specific time) they hear Yoko’s voice followed by a scream and the sounds of her apparent death. Disregarded as a prank call at first, things begin to become serious when the death really occurs two days later and Yumi and her friends discover that whatever killed her is using her phonebook to choose its next victims.

Call it an ode or a rip-off, Miike’s commercial decent into true Japanese horror can work on some level. With a generic story highly reminiscent of Ringu and Ju-on, the film may have you second-guess his directorial credit. Nevertheless, One Missed Call is a strong genre film that has its ups and downs and rotting flesh for if nothing else, a fine continuation of an apparently dying horror wave.

The beginning of the film starts off familiarly enough with the usual skepticism and character naivety standard for horror films. There’s little to note here in terms of uniqueness aside from the transition to the cell phone to even further scar the general populace and add on to the fear Ringu created. Still, Miike knows what the audience is expecting and he moves the plot along so we don't get hung up on the usual, annoying details and can right into the action.

The fun begins in the second half. The film gets spookier with gore shots and antagonist revelations akin to Takashi Shimizu’s creepy wandering ghosts. There’s a rather original bit with a television broadcast that is one of those creative ideas that’s always on your mind in horror films but never gets tackled until Miike comes along here. The film isn't nightmare caliber scary, but if the overall premise doesn’t frighten you, or the atmospheric tension and victims screams don’t creep you out, there are cheap shots that can make you jump while watching this at noon on your TV.

Kou Shibasaki is the star and we know she can act, so it’s no surprise she does a fine job here. Even though there's rarely any suspense and mystery to horror films with a big name main character or two and a supporting cast of monster fodder, here it hardly matters. Simply Miike's name gives the film limitless possibilities. Her male companion in the film is played well by Shinichi Tsutsumi who has a rather abrupt introduction but fits along well. Aside from Kazue Fukiishi as Yumi’s friend Natsumi, whose fear can shake you up more than the actual killings, the rest of the cast isn’t given enough focus and can be best described as good screamers.

Though the film lacks originality, Miike does a good job of capturing the essentials of the genre. With a solid script, cast and technical crew, One Missed Call simply offers an interesting experience with a cell phone ring you’ll remember and an ending that leaves you with an indescribable combination of thoughts and feelings. Even if it doesn’t have the expected magic of Miike and J-Horror, its pretty darn good in convincing us it does.


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