"One Missed Call" misses the mark

Jan. 7, 2008, midnight | By Charles Kong | 14 years, 4 months ago

A predictable "Call" offers little scare and suspense

Ever since the $129 million box office hit "The Ring," American producers have become increasingly obsessed with Japanese horror remakes. "Dark Water," "The Grudge" and "Pulse" are all examples of J-horrors filled with psychological delusions, poltergeists and possessive spirits. But there's a thin line between cunning creativity and extreme desperation, and director Eric Valette's remake of Takashi Miike's 2003 "One Missed Call" indubitably crosses it with an incoherent plot that borders on hilarity.

The supernatural curse this time around is not spread through the television nor the computer screen, but through the very sinister and scary cell phone. Users receive mysterious voice mail messages with the same eerie ring tone that are dated several days in the future, containing the sounds of their death. In the following period of time, the cursed person experiences frightening hallucinations of crawling giant centipedes and deranged white-faced apparitions. When three of Beth Raymond's (Shannyn Sossamon) friends all perish on the exact time and date described in their ominous voicemails, Beth decides to investigate into the matter, eventually leading her to detective Jack Andrews (Edward Burns), whose sister was also victimized by the curse. Their work together leads them closer and closer to solving the mystery, but before long, Beth's own phone sounds with the eerie ring tone of death.

Movies that borrow multiple thematic elements and plotlines from previous films require additional spices for it to be worthwhile and successful. Yet "One Missed Call" all but resembles its predecessors, especially "The Ring," and offers nothing faintly new – there's the abused child, the psychologically unsound mother, the scary faces, the high-pitched screams and the male police detective. Too many twists and events occur with too few explained. Screenwriter Andrew Klavan apparently picked the wrong questions to answer, boring the audience with an over-emphasized, obvious clarification for one question and confusing the audience with no elucidation for another.

But a bigger problem resides in the screenplay and cinematography. Although the prophetic knowledge of the exact time of death offers a gateway for added suspense, Klavan forgets to do anything with it. Most of the characters do nothing at all even though they know precisely when they are going to die - Beth is the only one who tries to avoid her death.

There are also too many awkward and unfitting scenes that turn the horror aspects of the film into more of a comedy. In one, the audience is treated to a comical sight of a demon baby in a crib dialing a cell phone, an image that is bound to arouse a chuckle in even the most obstinate viewers. But what's more entertaining is the appearance of Ray Wise as a squalid producer of a sensationalist TV show attempting to perform an exorcism on a cell phone. Klavan attempts to make up for these unintentional errors with classic scares at every corner. Although a fright from off-screen characters from time to time works brilliantly, solely using this technique isn't going cut it, no matter how loud the screams are.

The superficial and oblivious personalities of the characters can be blamed on not only the screenplay but also on the actors themselves. Granted, it is pretty hard for any actor to look like he or she is scared of a cell phone, but the interactions and relationships between Beth and the characters she encounters seem emotionless and transparent, almost as if they were ghosts themselves. Her friends Leann Cole (Azura Skye) and Taylor Anthony (Ana Claudia Talancón) barely appear to be aware of their surroundings. Detective Jack's partner Mickey Lee (Margaret Cho) hardly puts in an effort to helping Beth, and her expressions are stoic and dull.

The film ultimately delivers neither a fresh plot nor a heart-stopping screenplay for a suspense-craving audience. The expressionless acting combined with the already poorly written script drag the movie down into a lackadaisical ditch. "One Missed Call" is a movie that unquestionably should be missed. Hopefully it won't call for a sequel.

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

Charles Kong. Charles Kong loves to play tennis. Actually, he likes to play sports in general. He tries not to procrastinate, but his success rate varies. He likes listening to music and using the computer, and loves Jackie Chan movies. He is super excited for Chips, even … More »

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