One "Call" not worth taking

Jan. 7, 2008, midnight | By David Zheng | 13 years, 9 months ago

No originality, few scares, many laughs

The latest in a long line of Hollywood rip-offs of successful Japanese horror flicks, "One Missed Call" displays an incompetence that makes it more suitable as a comedy. Based on a grossly overused premise, the film bombards the audience with a story so worn-out that it could be considered its own sub-genre.

"One Missed Call" follows the basic formula of technology based horror. After a few underdeveloped and forgettable people die, the main character, usually female and connected with previous victims, teams up with an unexpected friend to discover the cause behind these mysterious deaths. After scouring forgotten files and abandoned buildings, the two protagonists discover clues of a tragic incident, often involving a creepy little girl, but not before the main character falls victim to the same curse. As the clock ticks down to her own death, they must race to reveal a dark hidden past. They finally discover what they believe is key when an "unexpected" plot twist reveals the true source of evil at which time the movie rapidly disintegrates into an anticlimactic ending.

In "One Missed Call," Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon), a confident college student, teams up with Detective Jack Andrews (Edward Burns), whose own sister died of the curse, in a plot that is unwaveringly faithful to the formula, except the curse is transferred through cell phones. After receiving a call dated in the future accompanied with an unfamiliar ringtone, the victims hear the sounds of their own deaths which actually occurs in the future when the call was timed. "One Missed Call" beats the same dead horse while simply changing the gimmick; a film based on a supernatural curse that travels through a song on iPods might as well be heading to the local theaters soon.

The movie borrows nearly every ingredient from successful J-horrors out there. It's a mix of "The Ring," "The Grudge" and "Final Destination" among others. "The Ring" manages to pull this plot off successfully with intelligent characters and genuinely shocking scares before the entire premise was beaten to death.

All "One Missed Call" has to offer is a cinematic mess. Besides Beth and Jack, the other characters are not even worth mentioning. Most of them are incredibly underdeveloped while others are dispatched so quickly and get so little screen time that it's hard to even remember their names. The acting itself was a nightmare - completely unbelievable - although much of it stemmed from the even more abominable dialogue. With lines such as "her spirit is going through the phones and attacking people!" the actors never really had a chance.

Not only is the story trite, but the attempted horror is as well. Director Eric Valette injects cheap scares at every turn. Actually decent build-ups of suspense invariably lead to Jack or a furry animal suddenly appearing on screen accompanied with a loud clash on the soundtrack. The PG-13 rating even ruined hopes of a creative death for any of the cursed victims.

Some scenes are laughably contemptible. A priests is filmed performing an exorcism on a cell phone for a television show. Victims hallucinate random porcelain faced ghouls on the streets. A demonic baby appears out of nowhere holding a cell phone. A dead corpse reanimates itself and pounces on Beth.

Closing with an entirely dissatisfying and unexpectedly abrupt finale that spawns more questions than it solves, the film leaves viewers desperately struggling to fill in multitudes of plot-holes. "One Missed Call" has certainly dialed the wrong number.

"One Missed Call" (87 minutes) is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, frightening images, some sexual material and thematic elements. It is now playing in theaters everywhere.

David Zheng. David Zheng used to live in California but now he is trapped in Maryland. In his spare time, David likes to play sports in general, doze off in front of the computer, watch random movies, and eat ice cream. Although some may disagree, David is … More »

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