All Reviews, Horror, International Films, Japan

One Missed Call (2003)

Let’s play a game. Even if you’re not knowledgeable about Japanese horror, you should be able to get this. I’ll describe a movie, and you give me the title. Ready? I’m thinking of a Japanese horror film that involves a curse. Wait, there’s more: It also involves a creepy little kid. Need more? Alright, how about a spirit with long black hair who’s bent on revenge? Give up?

Ok, the answer is obviously “One Missed Call,” although it could have just as easily been one of the “Ringu” films, one of the “Ju-On” films, or even our recently-reviewed “Ju-Rei: The Uncanny.” What’s surprising is that what should have been a pedestrian copy of other, more original films, actually comes off as both a tribute to those films and a damned creepy flick in its own right, thanks to the direction of the genius that is Takashi Miike.

Miike is known for films filled with bizarre non-sequiturs and demented brilliance. In “City of Lost Souls,” for example, he stages a Yukuza fight to the death as a ping pong match – and makes it work. In “One Missed Call,” he plays things more mainstream, but also manages to toss in, Quentin Tarentino style, dozens of references to other Japanese horror films.

“One Missed Call” tells the story of Yumi, whose friends begin dropping like flies, thanks to the hot new curse around town. The modus operandi is a call from the victim’s own cell phone, time stamped with the exact date and time that the person receiving the call will die. Not only that, but the audio message (or, in one case, video) is of themselves dying! All the victims have one other thing in common: a cherry jawbreaker, that comes rolling out of their mouths at the moment of death.

What starts off as the usual J-horror stuff becomes smart and satirical when a reality news television show gets wind that one of the students is about to die and offers her a contract to appear on the show at her time of death. It’s timely, topical, funny, brilliant…and scary as hell.

Another extended scene, taking place in an abandoned hospital, stands among the freakiest twenty minutes I have ever spent watching a film. If Silent Hill made you shudder, you’re gonna love this.

The film isn’t just scary; it also has something to say, particularly (and this isn’t giving anything away) about child abuse. Add in a strange ending that, for once, actually makes sense upon reflection while still offering room for interpretation, and this is one call I recommend you take.

Pros:Strong, sharp, colorful cinematography. Suspenseful as hell in spots. Unexpected, meaningful subtext. Smooth, well crafted effects.
Cons:Starts out too derivative of other J-horror films.
Review Rating: 4 out of 5 so-called “psychic mediums” are really just performance artists.

One Missed Call” (2003)
Also known as: “Chakushin ari,” “You’ve Got A Call” (literal translation)
112 Minutes; Japan
Not Rated, but probably equivalent to an R for violence, adult themes and disturbing images.

Starring:
Kou Shibasaki (Yumi Nakamura)
Shin’ichi Tsutsumi (Hiroshi Yamashita)
Kazue Fukiishi (Natsumi Konishi)
Renji Ishibashi (Motomiya the detective)
Goro Kishitani (Oka the undertaker)
Anna Nagata (Yoko Okazaki)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Viewing Format: Import VCD

(Originally published on HorrorWatch)

About John Daily

John is a freelance writer, columnist and critic. His work has appeared in print, as well as on sites such as ScifiWatch and HorrorWatch (where he wrote under the complete meaningless moniker “Bloody Taco”). An archive of his film-related material is available at cinemaspin.wordpress.com. Currently, he can be found spouting his special brand of sarcastic nonsense at CigarHell.com or Twitter (JohnNDaily).

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