One Missed Call (2003)


The early 2000s were the heyday of Asian horror.  Between the originals and the Hollywood remakes it was guaranteed that there was some film with a little girl with long hair covering her face.  It became a common trope worldwide, adding a belated new monster to the menagerie. 

Takashi Miike, despite having a reputation for horror movies, is in many ways Japan's Jesus Franco.  He has a better track record, and his truly outstanding films eclipse pretty much everything Franco did, but he is also someone who constantly grinds out new movies on the regular.  They are of varying quality and alternate between video, cinema and television.  He does not see fit to stick within a specific genre despite his willingness to pretend to do so for his fans at conventions.  He is also quite opportunistic, so he had no problem hopping on the new horror trend when the chance came along.

Yumi Nakamura (Kô Shibasaki) is a college student enjoying time with her group of friends.  Her best friend Yoko (Anna Nagata) has just lost a friend from high school who drowned under mysterious circumstances.  While Yumi and Yoko are talking the latter gets a strange phone call, seemingly from two days later, and hears her voice before screaming.  They dismiss it until the time comes and Yoko appears, in the middle of a phone call with Yumi, to leap off the bridge. 

Some high school students, hearing about what happened, let Yumi and her friends know that the girl who drowned had a similar experience.  A young man named Hiroshi Yamashita (Shin'ichi Tsutsumi) soon contacts Yumi since his sister also died after getting a phone call.  The connection is that every person is found with a candy in their mouth afterward, something that the police have also noticed.  It is only a matter of time before more of Yumi's friends die and before she gets the phone call herself, leading her to deduce the history behind it with Yamashita before it's too late.

One Missed Call skips the hair-covered girl, although it still has its share of ghosts and angry spirits.  Screenwriters Yasushi Akimoto and Minako Daira borrowed from a number of existing J-horror plotlines such as Ringu, Ju-on and The Pulse.  They still manage to come up with something fresh, playing on the cellphone culture that had arisen in Japan at the time.  There is also a brilliant scene where the press gets wind of it and Yumi's friend Natsumi (Kazue Fukiishi) is brought onto a television show to do a live exorcism with disastrous results.

For those used to Miike films like Audition or Dead or Alive, One Missed Call doesn't really go to such extreme lengths to shock.  This is Miike in full entertainment mode.  It's still bloody, but no worse than most mainstream U.S. horror films.  It does fall apart a bit right near the end, as it seems like the screenwriters didn't know how bring things to a close, but it is still one of the best of this period.  

One Missed Call (2003)
Time: 112 minutes
Starring: Kô Shibasaki, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Anna Nagata
Director: Takashi Miike

 

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