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Movie Review: One Missed Call


One Missed Call
Directed by Eric Valette
Written by Andrew Klavan from the novel Chakushin Ari by Yasushi Akimoto and the screenplay by Minako Daira
Warner Bros., 2008

Many Japanese horror films that have found their way to the U.S., and have later been remade (usually in lousy fashion), have had a theme: technology will kill you.  Ringu, later The Ring, was all about a videotape, that if you watched it, you would die in seven days.  Pulse, a remake of Kairo, was about dead people trying to make their way through computers and take lives.  And even when the theme isn’t overt, movies like The Grudge (a remake of Ju-On) use electronic devices to cause mayhem.

One Missed Call redoes Chakushin Ari, in which people receive phone calls and a message from their future selves that capture their final words/screams.  When they receive the message, they start seeing horrific images just before they die, a future date which shows up on their phone so they can start counting down the hours until death.

We see a fire in a hospital.  A girl, Laurel Layton (Raegan Lamb), is being escorted out by the authorities and they are asking, “Where’s your mom?”  Then it cuts to Shelley Baum (Meagan Good), who dies shortly after we meet her.  Then Leann Cole (Azura Skye) gets a call from herself, a cryptic final message.  Her friend Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon) hears the message, and not long after, Leann dies, saying the very things she said on the voicemail.

Beth is our main character at this point, and she starts seeing a couple more friends get calls and die before she, obviously, becomes part of the chain.  Detective Jack Andrews (Ed Burns) believes all the supernatural nonsense, mostly because his sister died under the same sort of circumstances.  The investigation leads to the Layton family. It’s suspected that the mom, Marie (Rhoda Griffis), had Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy: she hurts her daughters Layton and Ellie (Ariel Winter) for attention.  While Ellie’s body was found in the hospital fire, Marie’s was not.  Beth and Jack surmise that Marie is behind it, but how, well…that’s what you gotta figure out.

Beth, of course, has some experience with a psychotic mom (Laura Harring) who used to put cigarettes out on Beth’s arm.  So, Beth becomes our perfect hero to put a stop to the abusive mother.

As you may have surmised from the synopsis, this isn’t very good.  First off, the suspense is completely taken out of the picture by the fact that we know Beth is our main character and that everyone who gets calls around her is going to die.  There’s nothing that’s going to stop it.  It’s not like Final Destination where the characters actually have a chance to stave off death, fleeting as it may be.

There’s also a death that occurs that happens well before the time it’s supposed to happen.  I guess this was an attempt to make something surprising, but it also robs our villain of any integrity.  Plus, if you hear a message that broadcasts your final words, wouldn’t you try to avoid saying those words?  A creepy phone call is going to make you paranoid about every little thing.  I would certainly try to not replicate the details of the call.  I guess it’s what the filmmakers just call fate, and then they move on.

Also, the movie makes a big deal about making Beth a special character, like she has someone looking out for her during all these supernatural murders. But this doesn’t make any sense at all.  There’s nothing she does that would give her some sort of “guardian angel,” unless it’s the child abuse thing, but that really isn’t satisfying either.

It’s your typical kickoff film for a year, a January film rarely emerges as top-notch.  It’s a mild contender for this year’s Bottom List, but surely there will be much worse as we go along (I’m looking at you, Meet the Spartans).

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