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One Missed Call

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // April 22, 2008
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 15, 2008 | E-mail the Author
"Wait, so when's the movie coming out?"
"...It came out."
"Did you like it?"
"The movie?"
" was..."
"Awful, bloody film. I say it's just a ridiculous premise. Oh, what would happen if your mobile phone killed you? Why would a mobile phone kill anyone? It doesn't make sense. How can a mobile phone have an agenda and kill people?"
"I told her that when she read the script."
"Yeah. You were the voice of reason, mate."
"I tried to be, but she didn't listen."
"Going around killing people...a mobile phone, like, doing murders?"
"Why couldn't you just take the battery out of the phone?"
"Yeah, that's it! The battle's over."
"Hey, we've won."
"I hated it."
"Well, it's not for everyone, but..."
"No, it's ridiculous. Here's my favorite scene. ::ring ring:: Hello...?" ::keels over::
"It could never happen."
"No! It could never happen."
"It's...a metaphor technology."
"For society! For how we're...reliant on technology. I get it. I'm with you."
"It's a metaphor for a crap movie."

Okay, okay, the shitball horror flick they're riffing on in Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn't One Missed Call, and the co-eds in tight shirts and our raspy detective hero do eventually try yanking out the batteries and stomping on their cell phones. Pretty much everything else about that rant works for this unwatchable J-horror retread, though.

So, yeah. This limp remake of a Takashi Miike flick from a few years back pretty much boils down to The Ring with cell phones (The Ringtone?). A parade of twentysomething college students each hear some sort of jack-in-the-box-ish ringtone gurgling from their phones. It's the harbinger of a voicemail from the future where they get to hear themselves die on the other end. The time of each message is at the moment of death, and the calls come from mysteeeeeeeeriously knocked-off pals who'd keeled over with a piece of red hard candy in their mouths. Wash, rinse, repeat. Beth (Shannon Sossamon) has cleverly deduced that there's some sort of connection between all the deathsmurders, so she teams up with Detective Jack Andrews (Ed Burns, in dire need of a lozenge) to track down where the chain of calls started and...yeah, however boring I'm making it sound, One Missed Call is even worse.

Look, I like awful horror movies. I've devoted more of my life to schlock than I'd really want to admit, but even with as much of a resistance as I've built up to this sort of dreck over the years, I had a really hard time making it through One Missed Call. There's no "so bad, it's good" lurking around anywhere in here. It's a movie with zero atmosphere and barely a drop of blood, and director Eric Valette has dog-eared every last page in The Big Book of Lazy J-Horror Clich├ęs: an incoherent story boiling down to some sort of nasty childhood trauma, jittery ghost-faced kids, arms popping out of random places, absolutely zero trace of dread or suspense as some completely uninteresting detective work drags on and know the drill. There's not a legitimate scare or even a single tense scene anywhere in here. Oh, there are plenty of bland characters and stiff, wooden, monotone acting if you're into that sort of thing, though.

Okay, so let me rattle off some of the highlights. This is a movie that tries to eke out tension by having one character s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y open up her cell phone. To hammer home the point that there are nasty, evil, badnik ghosts behind all of this, there's a scene with a phone being passed around from person to person, and even though they all try to delete the voicemail of death, it's back by the time it's handed off again!!!! You've got low-rent CGI visions of squirming centipedes, random people combusting into flames-slash-flower petals, and theoretically-but-not-so-much unsettling shots of random deformed schlubs. Yes, the woman on One Missed Call's astoundingly stupid cover art who has extra mouths and noses where her eyes should be is in there too. Ray Wise pops up as a sleazy producer who arranges an exorcism on a damned cell phone, live on TV. Someone thought it'd be a winning idea to cast Margaret Cho as a hard-nosed detective who doesn't buy that there might be some connection between the string of mysterious deaths involving hard candy and tales of voicemails from the future. Beth's pal Taylor is such an awkward actress that you get line deliveries like: "Det's it. Now Eh'm really cripped out."

The, um, vaguely horror side of things includes a completely bloodless impaling, ghost-choking, arms darting out of a fish pond, arms darting out from behind doors, marionettes and asthma inhalers that are backed by 1200 decibel stings in the score, a slo-mo flashback of Mommy smoking, a demon baby in an abandoned hospital goofing around with a cell phone, Poltergeist-ish dragging around on a dingy floor, a pan-seared zombie in an air vent, an unintentionally hysterical bit with one corpse punching in a bunch of numbers on her phone... Yeah. One Missed Call is a dismal, dismal failure. Nothing -- nothing -- about it works. I can't fathom how this managed to escape into theaters or why the studio wouldn't have yanked the plug after seeing the first few batches of dailies. On the upside, Warner clearly had so little confidence in the movie that they didn't bother to produce any extras, and at least that means I can turn this review around faster and move on with my life.

Video: One Missed Call turned out alright on Blu-ray, and the 1.78:1, VC-1 encoded video is pretty much what you'd expect from a day-and-date release: fairly crisp, colorful, detailed...y'know, all the usual stuff that gets spouted off in these sorts of reviews. Director Eric Valette particularly likes fiddling with the palette, exaggerating colors and casting quite a bit of the movie in a muddy gold or a cold, steely blue. On the downside, the thin veil of film grain present throughout becomes much more pronounced under low light, and some of the darker interiors look a bit fuzzier than the rest of the movie. Black levels don't have quite the punch I'd expect either. All in all, though...? Pretty much what I'd go in expecting from a low-budget horror flick in high-def.

Audio: One Missed Call does pack lossless audio -- a 16-bit TrueHD soundtrack -- but it's kinda bland. There are the usual megaton wallops of bass to punctuate all the lazy jump scares, yeah, and a few effects swirl around all five channels in a weak stab at atmosphere. There's nothing technically wrong with the mix -- dialogue's clean and clear throughout, the lower frequencies are pretty hefty, clarity is consistently strong, and there are a fair number of pans and discrete effects -- but the sound design's definitely on the timid side, not nearly as aggressive as these sorts of movies usually are. Adequate but unremarkable.

One Missed Call sports a descriptive audio track, something I'm not used to seeing on all that many Blu-ray discs, along with subtitle streams and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras: Nothing...not even a trailer.

Conclusion: Nope. We're talking about a movie so unwatchable that it's currently rockin' a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, one of only six movies this decade to manage to pull off that mighty feat. Skip It.

The usual image disclaimer: the photos scattered around this review are promotional stills and don't necessarily represent the presentation on this Blu-ray disc.
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