Thursday, June 26, 2008

Film Review: One Missed Call

"One Missed Call" ** 1\2 (out of ****)

Ever since 2002 and the American remake of "Ringu", "The Ring" with Naomi Watts there has been a new horror genre created. It is referred to by many as "J-horror", or Japanese horror. There has been a long line of Asian horror films which have been remade in America. I, for one, do not like these movies. There seems to be something of a culture clash. What Asian filmmakers seem to find scary I find laughable. I'm never fully involved in the original Asian films or the American remakes.

For the sake of fairness I should admit, once in a while I am surprised. Many people did not like the American film "The Grudge" with Sarah Michelle Gellar. But that may be because they did not see the mess that was "Ju-On", which "The Grudge" was based on. It was a vast improvement and added a coherence that was missing in the original. I also saw "A Tale of Two Sisters". Not a very scary film, but well made.

And now we have "One Missed Call" based on the Asian film of the same title which was based on a novel written by Yashushi Akimoto, of the same title. Once again I am surprise to say the film was not what I expected and surpassed my expectations.

The film is about a group of college students who suddenly die when they discover they have one missed called. You see, after someone dies, a spirit goes through that person's phonebook and calls a random friend. When the other person picks up their phone, a voice message is left dated on the date that person will die, usually two days later. Sound a little odd? Well, welcome to the world of "J-horror".

The group of friends is headed by Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon). One of her friends include Taylor Anthony (Ana Claudia Talancon). Beth soon starts to realize something is going wrong, I think it has something to do with all her friends dying in front of her, so she goes to the police. No one will listen to the poor girl except a officer Jack Andrews (Ed Burns) who is getting over the death of his sister. He believes Beth's story because he has a feeling there may be a connection with his sister's death.

At this point "One Missed Call" becomes a story of child psychology and religion. It seems the root of the problem may have been because of a mother who abused her two daughters. The "missed call" may have been a call for help.

Religion is thrown into the story because Taylor is religious and thinks a TV producer, played by Ray Wise, who host a show on miracles, may be able to help her by exorcism. Needless to say, the plan doesn't work as people of Catholic faith are presented as con-artists. In what is the second mainstream film I have seen to present religion in a negative light ("The Mist" was the other).

"One Missed Call" does a lot of things right. It adds a good amount of background story for the characters. It provides some depth and tries to give the film a psychological edge. But it doesn't balance the horror and the psychological suspense as effectively as "The Orphanage" or "Dark Water" (another example of an effective American remake of a "J-horror" film). For everything "One Missed Call" does right, it forgets to be scary.

There are some well constructed scenes and some clever camera placement. But screenwriter Andrew Klavan, who wrote "Don't Say A Word", the Michael Douglas thriller, doesn't seem to do a worthwhile attempt to add horror.

I don't mind if the film wanted to throw religion in the story but it doesn't do anything with it. Think of "Rosemary's Baby" or "The Exorcist". We never quite get that blend of religion and horror as presented in those films.

I'm not sure what most who see this film are expecting but "One Missed Call" meet my expectations. That is not saying much, but the film may be worth a late Friday night rental when you are all alone.