#31DaysOfHorror: One Missed Call (2003)

omc2003People mysteriously start receiving voicemail messages from their future selves, in the form of the sound of them reacting to their own violent deaths.

Japan, are you doing this to me on purpose? Luring me in with your creepy premise and then pulling the ol’ switcheroo on me and giving me two hours of conversations about Munchausen By Proxy, with a couple of ghosts sprinkled in? Not to mention the fact that you throw in a bat-shit director like Takeshi Miike and don’t deliver on that either? I think we’re fighting, you and me. At least for now.

Victim of a terrible 2008 remake, One Missed Call has a spooky premise that takes a look at the growing fears around technology, with the bulk of the activity revolving around cell phone messages. Of course, this one also takes a look at some real and very serious issues like child abuse, and as I mentioned Munchausen by Proxy. Seriously, there’s a conversation in the film that goes over what that particular disorder is, and the things that people have done to their children because of it.

I’m not saying that a horror movie shouldn’t be serious, or deal with serious topics, but when the main plot seems to be that a ghost calls from the future and lets you listen to yourself die, you hardly expect a scene in which a little girl’s mother burns her with cigarettes after she discovers her dead grandmother.

Add on to the serious and intense subject matter director Takeshi Miike, who many of you will remember for movies like Ichi The Killer and Audition. He’s a great director who delivers some pretty insane films, and it’s easy to expect that from One Missed Call. That said, it’s not as though the movie is mild or tame, there are some pretty off-the-wall scenes. However, I can imagine people who only remember the last scenes of Audition being a bit disappointed with this.

This film really takes its time, but it’s not one that needed to at all. The premise is really straight forward, and the time it spends digging in is more dealing with abuse. There are some great and engaging scenes where the characters are beginning to unravel the mystery, but it just feels a bit too sluggish. A few trims here and there would have really done a lot to make this a stronger, and scarier film.

The next question, I suppose then, is whether or not the film is scary. As a whole, not really. Movies like Shutter manage to hold a real feeling of dread and tension throughout, where Call feels stretched and doesn’t hold that mood quite as well. That said, there are some genuinely eerie scenes throughout the movie, one that immediately comes to mind is when the main character sees the ghostly hands and face of their tormentor looking out at her from a cupboard. It got right under my skin, and frankly I’m still thinking about it now.

It’s a very well shot film as well, that’s something I feel like I don’t say enough. These films, even if I don’t like them, look fantastic. They’re dark, they’re effective when they are scary, and there is a clear technical competence to them. The performances too are engaging, and make the movie feel like less of a slog to get through.

One Missed Call shines in it’s final scenes, when the main characters find themselves in an abandoned hospital. This is the kind of ghost-story horror film that you expect, but it just takes a bit too long to finally get there. That said, I do actually recommend this one, it deals with some things that I absolutely wasn’t prepared for it to, but it’s possible that knowing about them going in will make it easier. It’s an interesting one, and I’m sure you’ve already decided if you’re interested or not. What’s left to say?

MY RATING: ***

 

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