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Original Title:
Chakushin ari

Japan 2003


Takashi Miike

Kou Shibasaki
Shinichi Tsutsumi
Kazue Fukiishi
Renji Ishibashi
Goro Kishitani
Anna Nagata
Atsushi Ida
Yutaka Matsushige
Mariko Tsutsui

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One Missed Call

Story: Yoko (Anna Nagata) gets a call on her cell phone while Yumi Nakamura (Kou Shibasaki) is standing beside her. Strangely her own cell number is displayed as the caller. When Yoko checks her voice mail and hears the message that was left for her she believes in a telephone prank. The call is from the day after tomorrow where you can hear somebody with Yoko's voice crying for help in panic. Two days later she actually dies with exactly the last words she heard in the voice mail.
Soon, the next one of Yumi's friends gets a call with a message from the future. The killer seems to choose his next victim from the cell phone adress book of his former victim. One after another more people die until eventually Yumi gets the creepy call. With the help of Hiroshi Yamashita (Shinichi Tsutsumi), whose sister died under similar odd circumstances as the cell phone victims, she wants to unravel the secret around the calls and prevent her own death.

Review: It's a little bit strange that of all people Takashi Miike is taking on this movie theme. And this at a time when the topic of the evil ghost of a girl with long black hair is, to say the least, hackneyed as hell. Moreover, if you expect a film with your typical Takashi Miike ingredients, then you'll be disappointed, too. It's really alarming how much Miike is cribbing from originals like "Ring". Nevertheless (or maybe just because of that) "One Missed Call" works amazingly well as a horror flick.

After a nice introduction, in which we get to know some of the characters and yet can only guess who is supposed to be the main character, the focus shifts to Yumi. Earlier, some persons die to let the main protagonist lose her skepticism about the seriousness of the situation and to make room for more panic.
Yumi is a mysterious girl, who has buried a secret of the past deep inside her, which adds to the curiousness of the audience. Somewhat sudden, but nevertheless still believable Hiroshi gets thrown into the movie, who himself also has an interesting past. And here we go, your standard man-helps-woman-to-uncover-a-dark-secret constellation of let's say a "Ring".

While the first half is very thrilling and delivers some nice shocking moments, the latter half is the part were the action or rather horror really starts. The atmosphere becomes more dense, dark, nightmarish and the story isn't that bad either. Even though once again it is about a girl and her mother who eventually are the ones responsible for all the murders one way or another... Hopefully, I did express myself vaguely enough, so that I didn't spoil anything, but in the end it doesn't matter anyway. The plot is nothing new, but the way the story is told is nice to follow.
It never gets boring, as you frequently find out something new along with the characters. There are some nice twists and the tension is always high. What more do you need?

Sure, the scene in the abandoned hospital has its moments, but the real highlight of the film is without a doubt the one in which Yumi's friend is killed live in front of the cameras of a show in which the evil ghosts were to be exorcised out of her. The media's need for sensations seems to know no limits and Miike critices this very fittingly. The inner breakdown of Natsumi and the extreme horror, that nearly makes her go crazy is in stark contrast to the producers, who are only having an eye on the audience rating and keep the cameras running even when everything is going down to hell.

The actors know their stuff and Miike directs with impressive ease. Every now and then there are some nice camera movements and angles, there is also quite some blood squirting around, yet you can't make out Miike's typical handwriting. Maybe he just had his fun to copy what he wanted from other movies of the genre? Even the girl in the upper closet has an appearance! Somehow you have to get the feeling as if Miike is presenting us all this with a wink. However, for this the film takes itself too serious. Moreover, the intense horror soon let's us abandon this theory.

Nevertheless, "One Missed Call" has its flaws. It remains a mystery why the police is displayed as a bunch of incapable idiots. After Natsumi has been killed live in front of the cameras and we have the first real proof for paranormal activities, there seems to be no greater effect on the world whatsoever. Additionally, Yumi's past is never fully uncovered. Somehow one expected a bit more.

A real sore point is without a doubt the ending. Here, the director leaves quite some space for interpretation. Sadly, not a single one of the numerous possibilites of interpreting the events I came across, are really conclusive. The movie ends very openly and leaves us with a slightly bitter taste.

"One Missed Call" is a very well ripped-off horror-movie, that can give you quite some goose bumps. Not really a Takashi Miike film, but nonetheless worth watching.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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