Correct Opinion was given the dubious pleasure of seeing an advance screening of One Missed Call, a remake of the Japanese film Chakushin ari, back in February. It has taken us this long to forget the horror and actually write a review. And not the horror within the film, because that would be okay – this is meant to be a horror film. But rather, the horror that is the film itself.
In some ways, half-arsed US remakes of superior Japanese horror films are an easy target. Showing notoriously little flair and originality, they are becoming increasingly ten-a-penny, with the law of diminishing returns being harshly applied. When the source material itself wasn’t even all that brilliant to start with, you’ve a potential mess on your hands.
One Missed Call, however, goes above and beyond. It has possibly defied some law of physics to be able to contain all of the following in just one film: bad acting, bad pacing, bad plot, bad special effects, more bad acting, bad use of creepy children, bad fashion, bad logic, bad character development. All that, and Ed Burns.
The plot (such as it is) concerns a group of American students, and a fatal curse of sorts that is spreading through their gang of friends, apparently via their mobile network.
They’re clearly on Meteor.
Generic girl #1 sees a missed call on her phone. Girl gets a voicemail which is dated in the future. The message is her screaming and, ultimately, dying. Then, at the precise time and date of the voicemail, said girls dies in the exact manner as the message. The mobile phone spirit thingy scrolls through her contacts and moves on to the next victim. Generic girl #2 then sees a missed call on her phone, etc. You get the idea. One of the gang, Beth, teams up with a cop, Jack, whose sister died the same way, in an attempt to unravel the supernatural mystery behind it all.
While we allow horror films to stretch the boundaries of what’s plausible, there still has to be a limit to the silliness. Or, at the very least, the silliness should be portrayed in a manner that’s aware of how silly it is and/or genuinely frightens the bejeekers out of us. One Missed Call manages neither.
Shannyn Sossamon and Ed Burns play Beth and Jack respectively. Sossamon is an actress who impressed in The Rules of Attraction but who has failed to strike it big since. She’s not outright terrible in this, as she is given a very poor script to work with, and a very clunky, unsubtle back story that she can’t quite pull off. And while it’s refreshing, I suppose (really scraping to find positives here), to have a horror film that doesn’t rely on the obvious scantily-clad, big-breasted blonde hotties to hold our attention, did the filmmakers really have to go in completely the opposite direction? The poor girl appears to be wearing her grandfather’s baggy grey cardigan for most of the film.
Bad fashion is possibly the least of her worries though. Being teamed up with Ed Burns (last seen being serviceable, if bland, in 27 Dresses) was never going to help her cause. The level of weak acting is best represented quite early on. When Jack is met with the sight of his sister’s corpse, his reaction, while I’m sure meant to portray shock, revulsion and sorrow, merely evokes the response one would expect when greeted with a slightly out-of-date egg sandwich. Namely, “ugh”. Burns is a liability throughout the whole film, giving wood a bad name and showing the emotional range of a lettuce.
And as for the actual shocks and, y’know, horror? Well, there are certainly a few jumps in it. But the term “cheap scares” come to mind. It’s not that difficult to give a fright if you stick to a dimly lit set, with the stock horror elements such as a would-be creepy score, creaking doors, a fire-damaged hospital with no electricity and badly scarred beings jumping out very quickly.
Certain scenes have a creepy element to them that you can just imagine working very well within the original Japanese setting. Pale, facially disfigured people appearing, possibly as hallucinations, to just the intended victims, have the potential to create chills. However, it all comes off as very laughable. When the characters are all of the cookie-cutter American apple-pie mould, it’s hard to take the attempts at edgy scares seriously.
In a clear attempt to get a more box office-friendly 15A classification over the stricter 16, there is very little overt blood and gore. But by not offering at least the tension that can arise from unseen horrors, One Missed Call feels quite lacking on the scare front. Although a close relative of the burnt guy who turns up at the end of Sunshine does make an appearance.
All in all, this is in many ways an old school (read: unoriginal) evil spirit tale, which tries to appear relevant by using modern technology as a plot device. Events feel contrived, the characterisation is shallow and the scary bits are more likely to have you asking “what the f*ck…?!” than hiding behind your popcorn.
One to miss: two out of ten.