One Missed Call (UK - DVD R2)
Reviewer Marcus Doidge is checking his messages for One Missed Call...
Do you remember when you first saw The Ring? Whether it was the original Japanese version Ringu, or the US remake, it really didn’t matter, this was something that felt exciting and new, right? Something that felt like the boot in the ass that horror so desperately needed at the time, right? It wasn’t the same old slasher nonsense we’d all grown accustomed to which had become so formulaic you knew how it would end before the opening credits finished splashing across the screen. This was something genuinely creepy, ominous and darn right scary in places, making ‘Japanese Horror’ something of an event, especially with the likes of Dark Water and the original Japanese The Grudge to back this movement up.
So how is it that after ten years, we’re still getting those three ground-breaking movies regurgitated on a regular basis? What with the sequels, the remakes, the prequels and handfuls of other knock offs how is it all essentially the same ol’ Japanese ghost story?
From the get go, One Missed Call feels somewhat familiar, despite its slightly new angle. Yumi Nakumura’s (Kou Shibaski) best friend Yoko gets ‘one missed call’ on her mobile phone (yes the title says it all). What’s strange about the ‘missed call’ is that it’s dated a couple of days in the future and what’s even stranger is that it’s a voicemail message from Yoko herself screaming in fear. Is this a prank? Is this a phone malfunction? Is this sounding somewhat like The Ring? ‘Seven days...’
Anyhoo, you guessed it, Yumi’s best friend dies exactly when the mobile phone foretold, but because it looks like a suicide the police don’t want to hear Yumi’s concerns and guess what—a few other people in Yumi’s life get ‘one missed calls’ and they too die as foretold by mysterious video… I mean mobile phone. Is this sounding at all familiar?
I’m probably being a little overly mean at this point. Twenty minutes into watching One Missed Call and I've gotta say that I was intrigued. After all, this isn’t just anyone directing, this is now legendary shock maestro Miike Takashi, a director who was and still is a key player in this western love affair with Japanese horror/violence/general bad-taste-in-the-mouth filmmaking. As well as a number of lower key projects (that surprisingly don’t get half as much press in the UK) Miike knows how to structure a movie to lead his audience along the path towards his payoffs with ease, in fact he’s bloody good at it.
He produces some genuine scares here and not always the obvious stuff. There are a number of very, very cool moments where you don’t even realize something is in the shot (an arm or a hand) until it moves and man it’s creepy. Miike also has a fine ear for horror sounds, in what is essentially a very calm quiet movie, when he wants you to freak out he knows how to do it but I’ll go more into that in the audio section of this review.
So what comes next is the detective story element of nearly every Japanese horror movie. Yumi is approached by Yamashita Hiroshi (Tsutsumi Shinichi) whose sister’s death was also connected to her mobile phone. This follows the usual path of going to dead people’s normal looking houses and seeing pale people in cupboards out of the corner of their eyes, discovering stories of abuse and setting up the character that ‘could’ be the angry spirit doing all the cold calling on the mobile phones (yes all elements of both Dark Water and The Grudge). Just replace words like phone with water or angry spirit with grudge.)
This is all pretty uninteresting stuff, and not because it isn’t handled well or executed sharply, which for the most part it is. It’s just that it soon catches up with you that you’ve seen this all before. Outside of the really well handled ‘live exorcism’ of one of the missed call receivers which has some genuinely well handled horror, everything else just starts feeling like ‘The Best of Japanese Horror Vol 1'. There’s the abandoned hospital, the creepy black hair, the creepy arm on shoulders, the images in the mirror, ‘ghosts’ jumping frames of film, the dead body in a box that comes to life and the ending that wraps up nicely but still has twenty minutes on the clock so you know they guessed the wrong body and the… I think you get the picture. In fact I opted we change the title from One Missed Call to ‘Ringu in Dark Water: The Grudge’ or shall we go ‘The Grudge of the Ringu in Dark Water’. I’ll leave it up to you.
The picture is exactly what I expected. As with a lot of other Japanese Horrors this is a very noisy image. Nothing is noticeably sharp, there’s a lot of grain and it’s not a transfer that has anything to get excited about. Saying that, I personally think this aids the eerie feeling in a lot of this genre's releases and gives it a lower budget feel that lures you into its world quite effectively. That said, I'm sure not everyone will shares my feelings on this.
As I mentioned earlier, One Missed Call is a quiet movie for the most part. There are a lot of very calm discussions about the nature of angry spirits and lots of silent moments, all of which is very standard audio fare. The atmospheric music is again, fairly low key as are most of the general sound effects. However, then comes the horror sounds. Goddamn they kick into your speakers and this sound impact works well at making you feel uneasy. The hiss of the asthma inhaler, the loud bangs and the screeching of objects—they hammer home. I can’t say for sure whether this is a genuinely good audio or if it's just effective against the bland normal audio of the rest of the movie but this is fantastically effective and obviously intentional. Oh and when the mobile phone ring tone appears in different areas of the 5.1 set up and you genuinely have moments of thinking that it’s your own phone ringing, which is a nice little touch to keep you locked into the movie's events.
The only real feature on here, outside of the more than you'd expect trailers selection is the ‘Making of’ (52:10). Other than the misguided opening, in which Miike proclaims that most horror only scares you, rather than offering any other emotional response and his aim to bring more to the Japanese Horror genre (laughable), you actually get quite a good look see at the film-making process of this iconic Japanese director. What strikes you first off is just how old-school this all is and how some of the SFX I had thought a CGI effect, wasn't at all. It's just great to see make up and effects work of this level, done with people on set. Which bring me to the other thing i thought was cool: the footage with all the crew huddled together with puffa jackets on, standing behind Miike whilst he looks too cool for school, is brilliant. It really brings home the smallness of the production and it's all great fun watching them work.
Miike seems to have gone for a more restrained approach to what could have been a full blown horror by a man that does on screen shocks like no other. It's still a creepy little horror with some great ideas, but One Missed Call has just come that little bit too late to be considered anything exciting. It takes too many visual and story elements from the Japanese Horror movies that came before it and considering the standard setters for this fairly new genre and the big impact when they first hit, I'd imagine that the majority of One Missed Calls audience are going to feel like they've seen this all before.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 24th March 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanse, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Making of, Trailer & Tv Spots
Easter Egg: No
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Kou Shibasaki, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi
Genre: Horror and Mystery
Length: 107 minutes
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