Modern technology can be even more terrifying if cellphone calls lead to mysterious deaths, as in the Japanese One Missed Call trilogy.
One Missed Call (2003)
(Japan 2003, director: Takashi Miike, original title: Chakushin ari)
Voicemail messages from their future selves foretell people their own deaths, and two of them try to investigate the real reason behind a spirit’s vengefulness.
Takashi Miike is known as the enfant terrible in Asian cinema, usually touching controversial themes and presenting them in gory detail. While this movie starts like the Japanese version of Final Destination (a series I still have to cover in the future), with mostly teenagers dying horrible deaths, it soon turns into a drama about child abuse. Even if the runtime of almost 2 hours is too long for what the director tries to tell and he can’t quite decide if it should be more exploitative teenage horror or social commentary, especially when criticizing exploitation by the media, the movie has a lot going for it, although the characters aren’t part of it.
Being a Miike movie, the violence can be quite difficult to stomach, although it’s rather tame in comparison to Audition or Ichii – The Killer. The death sequences are only partly gruesome due to low budget CGI effects and despite a few scary moments, the atmosphere never reaches the same constant uncomfortableness as in the first Ring. If it weren’t for some unexpected twists, especially towards the end, it wouldn’t work either as a drama or a ghost story. Fortunately it does deliver with its ending and has even more story substance than the aforementioned J-horror movie, even if its storytelling is unnecessarily complicated.
One Missed Call 2 (2003)
(Japan 2005, director: Renpei Tsukamoto, original title: Chakushin ari 2)
After answering his daughter’s cellphone, a Japanese restaurant owner dies, and it’s not only in Japan, but in Taiwan where the deaths that are foreshadowed by phone calls have occured and still occur.
While many people might complain about Hollywood’s lack of ideas and delivering all kinds of remakes, reboots and sequels, this movie shows that it’s even possible in Japan to release some unnecessary installments. Just as with the Ring series, there’s a point when oversaturation is reached, so simply presenting the audience with some long-haired girls or ghostly fingers reaching out isn’t enough to be shocking. Despite again touching the subject of child abuse, it’s done in a much more conventional revenge story that is anything but original or even touching.
What one is left with is a movie that is 15 minutes short of a two-hour drag that can neither create suspense nor chills, not even kills. The constant changes between Taiwan and Japan don’t help the plot or its uninteresting characters, either. It’s true that slasher movies follow the same formula of introducing characters that are killed off in imaginative ways, as the Final Destination series shows, but these are far more entertaining than this slow-paced borefest that can’t be saved by an overdramatic ending and an unnecessary twist.
One Missed Call: Final (2006)
(Japan 2005, director: Manabu Asô, original title: Chakushin ari final)
Young student Asuka is bullied by her classmates to whom she sends a cursed phone message while they’re on a class field trip to Korea, starting another round of accidental deaths.
Try as they might, Japanese horror movies can’t quite match US slasher movies, and this is certainly the best example of it, which means that it’s much more entertaining than the second movie. Still touching serious subjects like abuse, this time bullying at school, it functions more like an excuse to play with Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None concept. If only the runtime of almost 2 hours wouldn’t ruin the guilty pleasure experience, because except for one twist, there isn’t much of a story development.
What makes this movie more fun to watch is that it shows what people are capable of when it comes to their own survival. While it’s never as graphic or extreme as in Saw I-VII, it’s telling that schoolfriends and even teachers suddenly want to get rid of a death sentence by forwarding the phone message to others they know. It sounds rather sick and the bully scenes hint at a much deeper social problem in Japan (or society in general), but some of the over-acting make many scenes unintentionally funny. Even less scary and dramatical than the first instalment, this almost succeeds in making one watch it again, if it weren’t so long.
If you liked reading this article, make sure to LIKE it or comment on it on EMR’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the Amazon links and buying the products also helps ;).