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One Missed Call Trilogy
Arrow brings all three films in the One Missed Call Trilogy to Blu-ray in a nice collector's edition release. Here's what you get…
One Missed Call:
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 Missed Call definitely plays by the rules that were firmly established in earlier Japanese horror releases, such as the better known Ring and Ju-On series, 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 film was remade for an American audience in 2008 by Eric Valette, but the less said about that movie the better.
One Missed Call 2:
One Missed Call did well enough that Toho/Kadokawa decided to option a sequel, and thus, we have One Missed Call 2, although this time out Miike is nowhere to be seen and the film is directed by one Renpei Tsukamoto.
Kyoko (Japanese televisions starlet, Mimura) is a teenage girl with a problem far different than those that plague others in her age range. It seems that most of her friends are dropping dead after receiving a mysterious cell phone call. Kyoko hooks up with Journo Takako (Asaka Seto) who convinces her that the deaths are being caused by the angry spirit of a dead woman named Mimoko. He knows this as his sister was killed off by the very same spirit not too long ago. Journo talks Kyoko into heading off to a distant Taiwanese coal-mining village to try and piece together Mimoko's past. It seems that her father used to live in the area and the hope to be able to figure out just what it is that Mimoko needs in order to make her stop offing their friends through their phones.
This film almost feels like two stories combined into one film. The beginning of the movie focuses on the way that the spirit acts out through the phones and the second part focuses on solving the mystery and laying the vengeful ghost to rest without really resolving some of the themes from the first half. In essence, what happens with this transition is that the film discards what makes it unique (the cell phone idea) and turns itself over to the clichés that the genre is known for (angry ghosts needed to be put to rest a la Ring). How does it all play out in the end? Well, despite some nice atmosphere and a few creepy spots and a jump scare or two, One Missed Call 2 feels like a rushed sequel made to cash in on the success of the first film. No surprise there, really and the fact that it is more or less a retread of its predecessor mish-mashed with a few other more popular films isn't really a shocker, but it is a bit of a disappointment as there was some potential here to make a better movie out of the idea had the storyline tied up a few of the obviously loose ends.
That being said, Tsukamoto's direction is good. The movie is paced well and after a slow opening ten minutes or so moves along at a good pace. It doesn't feel padded or slowed down but flows quite naturally giving us almost as much information we need to stay on top of things. Performances are neither remarkable in their quality or their horridness… they're simply there and they're quite average and don't stand out but they are sufficient enough to get the job done. It's just a shame that the nastiness of the first film was watered down for this 'by the numbers' sequel. The filmmakers had a chance to break some new ground and focus on something different and instead opted to rely on commercially viable clichés. It's an entertaining enough movie, but it's all going to seem very familiar to anyone seasoned in the horror films that Japan has been pumping out in the last five to ten years.
One Missed Call 3: Final:
The third and final film in the set, directed by Manabu Aso, this one follows a group of Japanese teenagers who go on a trip to South Korea but before the group left, a student tries to commit suicide by hanging herself in the school gymnasium, tired of the constant bullying she's subjected to at the hands of her peers. Her friend Asuka (Maki Horikita) saves her and the girl is brought to a hospital in a coma.
During the trip, various other students start dying off in some reasonably morbid ways, leading to a girl named Emily (Meisa Kuroki) trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle and find out exactly what is going on here. As it turns out, various people are getting the ‘death call' again (this time accompanied by a picture of the hanging), but this time there is a bit of a twist in that they can forward the call to someone else, thus avoiding the curse and, subsequently, certain death. Asuka would seem to be behind all of this, using her computer and her phone, but is that really what's going on?
Better than the second film but not as good as the first picture, this one would have definitely benefited from some more judicious editing choices. At over two hours in length it overstays its welcome. It isn't a complete waste of time, mind you. The premise is reasonably interesting and the acting is okay. Yes, a few of the young actresses here do little more than scream a lot, but at least they do it well enough. The effects are good, if never great. At times this one feels like more of a Final Destination film, with the ‘mouse trap' styled murder set pieces in the film definitely calling back to that successful Hollywood franchise.
Why exactly the film is set in Korean is anyone's guess as the film never does anything interesting with the locations, as this could just have easily stayed in Japan and worked just as well. Without spoiling things, this one ties into Mimiko's story from the first film, but it doesn't do that very well. Still, it's reasonably entertaining.
The One Missed Call Trilogy comes to Blu-ray from Arrow Video framed at 1.85.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on two 50GB discs, the first film on the first disc and the two sequels sharing the second. The transfers look decent enough, improving on past DVD releases in detail, depth and texture without ever approaching reference quality. Some of the darker scenes can look a little murky but colors are reproduced reasonably well. The discs are authored well, no problems with any compression issues to complain about..
Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 soundtracks are provided for each film, as are optional English subtitles. The 5.1 tracks are the better option, spreading out the effects and the score nicely and enhancing some of the jump scares. Dialogue is clear, clean and sounds fine. The levels are balanced properly, there are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion.
The extra that will be of the most interest on the first disc, for most viewers, is the new audio commentary over the first film by Miike biographer Tom Mes, who definitely knows his stuff. He puts this one into context alongside some of the other J-horror pictures that came out before it, details the production history, talks about the performances and offers plenty of biographical details on the people involved in the production.
The rest of the extras will look familiar to those who have owned the previous Tokyo Shock DVD edition, starting with an hour long Making Of One Missed Call documentary that is presented in Japanese with English subtitles. 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 are up next. 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 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, menus and chapter selection.
On the second disc is a making of documentary covering the second film, presented in Japanese with optional English subtitles. This piece contains some nice behind the scenes footage and few interviews with the cast and crew members, all of whom talk about how wonderful it was to work on the project and what they liked about the experience. The documentary runs just under thirty-three minutes in length and judging by the Japanese text on the screen throughout it's probably a safe guess to assume that this was originally shot for Japanese television. While the interviews don't provide much insight into anything specific, the behind the scenes footage is interesting enough to make this worth a look.
We also get Gomu, a short film by One Missed Call 2 director Renpei Tsukamoto. This quickie runs four-minutes and it tells the story of a cop who gets 'the phone call' that has been haunting people for two films know. He finds out how he's going to die, but it doesn't play out as planned and instead it goes for a really off the wall ending. It's a fun little send up, presented here in Japanese with optional English subtitles.
Additionally, there are three deleted scenes (none of which add much to the film but which come with an introduction from the director who explains why they weren't used (three minutes' worth of material here in total) and a One Missed Call 2 music video!
Extras pertaining to the third film include The Making Of One Missed Call: Final, an hour-long archival documentary that is a mix of behind the scenes footage and cast and crew interviews. It's an interesting enough look at the making of the picture and it features input from Maki Horikita and Meisa Kuroki and with Manabu Asou.
Up next is Maki and Meisa, a fifteen-minute archival behind-the-scenes featurette on One Missed Call: Final with actresses Maki Horikita and Meisa Kuroki. It's primarily footage of the two actresses doing the rounds at different media events in Japan. There's also an eleven-minute piece here called Behind The Scenes With Keun-Suk Jang, another archival featurette, this time focusing on the Korean actor and how he got along with his Japanese co-stars and crew members. We also get Candid Mimiko, a fifteen-minute archival location tour with the villain of the series that is kind of amusing.
Extras for the third film also include The Love Story, a short film tie-in for One Missed Call: Final that runs twelve-minutes and that is reasonably clever and, as such, worth seeing. It ties into the characters of Emiri and Jinwa that appear in the film.
As far as the packaging goes, we get some neat reversible cover sleeve art as well as a color insert booklet containing credits for the features and the Blu-ray release as well as an essay written by Anton Bitel.
The three films in the One Missed Call Trilogy aren't going to blow you away but the first one works pretty well, even if the sequels aren't as good. Arrow's Blu-ray set offers a nice improvement over past standard definition offerings and is loaded with extras. Fans of the series will appreciate the upgrade.
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.