Strange things seem to get haunted in Japan, be they televisions or lockers or, in the case of Takashi Miike's One Missed Call, a cell phone. Starting off in the familiar vein of Ring, we see a young woman who misses a call on her phone only to check her voice mail to find out that the call actually came from two days from the present – that's right, she got a phone call from the future. What does she hear on the message? Her own voice, screaming in terror, but for what reason she doesn't know, and she'll never find out as two days later, she's found dead. From here, we learn that her boyfriend fell victim to a similar fate. From here the horror seems to spread through the built in phone book that was in the first girl's cell phone and the next victim is their mutual friend, Yoko (Anna Nagata) but by the time it gets to her, she's clued in to the fact that something is going on and she doesn't intend to take it lying down.
Through a strange set of circumstances, Anna manages to get herself booked on a live television show that covers strange supernatural events precisely two days later, and has an exorcism performed on TV in hopes of cleaning herself of whatever vengeful spirit is making its way through cell phones across Japan. In hopes of helping Yoko, her best friend, Yumi (Kou Shibasaki), recruits the aid of a supernatural expert named Hiroshi (Shinichi Tsutsumi) to figure out just what's wrong with the phones, where the ghost is coming from, and why it is so angry. After some digging around, all signs point to a creepy old apartment but just as the start putting it all together, Yumi misses a call on her cell phone and the countdown begins…
As ridiculous a concept as it might be, One Missed Call actually works fairly well. The first half of the film does a fantastic job of building the suspense up to a point where it really does start to get a little creepy, and Miike's direction, played almost completely straight this time out, suits the material rather well. Pacing wise it starts off with a very strong scene and keeps up that momentum for a good half hour before things slow down to, of course, explain some of the back story behind the vengeful ghost responsible for the whole mess at which point the movie starts to flutter a little bit before picking up again for the last half hour.
One of the more mainstream films from Miike to see a legitimate DVD release in North America, the film definitely plays by the rules that were firmly established in earlier Japanese horror releases such as the better known Ring and Ju-On but manages to one up them in terms of creativity and flat out weirdness once it all wraps up. The ending might throw some people for a loop but it just serves to remind us that as palatable as the film is, it is still a Takashi Miike movie and as such, is prone to strange things happening for even stranger reasons (or sometimes no reason at all). You're not going to experience anything even remotely close to some of the director's more popular genre efforts such as the blood soaked Ichi The Killer or the breast milk soaked Visitor Q, but a few of his touches are definitely there and One Missed Call is all the better for it.
Though the film looks and sounds like most of the other recent Japanese horror movies that follow along the same lines, there are some clever examples of moody lighting and a few interesting camera angles that keep things interesting. The sound mix is also quite well done, using eerie effects, hollow sounding ring tones that seem to come from somewhere not quite of this world, and the odd jump scare to build atmosphere nicely. It's conventional, fairly predictable, but well made and well acted and it delivers enough of the creepiness that it promises to succeed even when it probably shouldn't.
The DVD from Media Blasters presents the film in a decent anamorphic transfer that actually looks quite good. The colors are strong, the black levels are rich and deep, and there's a very solid level of detail present in the picture. It's not a reference quality image we're looking at here as there is some mpeg compression as well as some edge enhancement present in the picture, but it's perfectly watchable. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and color reproduction is nice. Some of the fine detail gets lost a little bit in a few of the darker scenes but other than that this is a nice looking DVD.
There are Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound options available in Japanese and in English, Japanese and English options in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound, and optional English subtitles are included that are clean, clear and easy to read. Unless for some reason you've got a strong aversion to subs, you'd do well to watch the film utilizing the Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix as it's quite good and the English dubbing doesn't really do the film any favors at all (in fact, it's pretty bad). The rears chime up in a few scenes and add a couple of nice jump scares here and there, though most of the action comes at you from the front of the sound stage. Dialogue is clean and clear and the tracks are both free of any hiss or distortion. Bass could have been a little stronger, but other than that, One Missed Call sounds good here.
Aside from a few trailers for other Tokyo Shock titles, most of the extras are found on the second disc in this two disc set. Disc two starts off with an hour long Making Of One Missed Call documentary that is present in Japanese with some wonky English subtitles that contain a few too many typographical errors and spelling mistakes and that seem to omit a few of the people who are being interviewed on camera. Other than that, however, this does a fine job of giving us a look at the production as it was in progress. The sheer exhaustion of the shoot comes through nicely, and we get a good idea of how tensions can grow between participants on set. Overall though, everyone seems to have been pretty professional on the shoot.
Miike is also on hand for a twenty-minute on camera video interview in which he talks about the project and explains to us that he was asked to make a few compromises on this project in order to make it a more palatable affair in hopes of it achieving some mainstream success. He's in a pretty good mood here, going into a fair bit of detail about how he came on board and the origins of the project. It's also quite interesting to hear his interpretation of the story and how it's as much a love story and a romance as it is a horror movie.
Fifteen minutes of on camera video interviews with the crew members from the film are up next, although Media Blasters probably should have re-titled this 'cast interviews' as everyone in this section, aside from Takashi Miike himself, appeared in front of the camera, not behind it. Kou Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi and Kazue Fukiishi all appear to talk about their work on the film and while a lot of this is self congratulatory and rather promotional feeling in nature, there are some interesting anecdotes in here and it's interesting to see how they present themselves when not in character. Miike is just barely in here, but his bit is the highlight of the film as he makes some quirky observations about his cast members.
A fourteen-minute collection of footage from the premiere of the film is here, showing us that most of the key cast members were in attendance as was the director. It's moderately interesting and we get to see them talk to a few reporters at a press conference that was put on before the film premiered. Also included is A TV Show Special which is simply twenty-minutes of the raw footage from the TV special that the character of Natsumi Konishi appears in. A Day With The Mizunuma Family is simply a collection of the camcorder footage used in the movie – saying anymore would be spoiling the movie for those who haven't seen it, and again, don't bother checking this out until you've watched the feature itself.
Rounding out the extras are a truly insane alternate ending that presents the entire film in a completely different light, and a dozen television promos for the film that are best watched after the movie itself as a few of them contain some spoilers.
A decent Japanese ghost story with a couple of inventive twists is the recipient of a solid two disc DVD release from Media Blasters. While One Missed Call lacks the inventiveness of some of Miike's better films, it's an entertaining and spooky movie in its own right, even if by this point in the game it's a little clichéd. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.