One Missed Call (2008)

Reviewed By Mel Valentin
Posted 01/04/08 05:16:17

"Say it with me: a demon baby holding a cell phone. Yeah."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Just when you thought it was safe to venture into your local multiplex and not yet encounter another remake of a Japanese horror film comes the tepid, flaccid remake of "One Missed Call" that’s as short on genuine scares (all of one) as it is long on cheap scares (between twenty and thirty). Not content to give an American director a shot at Andrew Klavan’s ("Don't Say a Word," "Shock to the System") adaptation of Yasushi Akimoto’s novel, the studio tapped little known French director Eric Valette ("Maléfique," "Dégustation," "Il est difficile de tuer quelqu'un, même un lundi,""Samedi, dimanche et aussi lundi") for his first English-language film. If "One Missed Call" is any indication, it’ll probably be his last English-language film.

Borrowing just about every trope from the J-horror genre, One Missed Call centers on a supernatural curse transmitted by cell phone, the “one missed call” of the title. Users get a voicemail message from the future from themselves. As creepy as that sounds, it gets creepier: they also hear themselves moments before someone or something kills them. Once the curse marks you, you get a few days before death strikes. During that brief interval, terrible apparitions (the standard assortment of white-faced children and adults) visit the cursed cell phone users. Nothing, not even drop kicking your phone or stomping it into several dozen pieces, can stop the curse once it’s set in motion. Unless, of course, you solve the mystery behind the curse and free what ever troubled spirit happens to be using the curse as an excuse to go on a killing spree.

In quick succession, the curse strikes any number of people, all of them eventually connected to two people, Beth Raymond (a hyperventilating Shannyn Sossamon), a college student, and Jack Andrews (a bored, taciturn Edward Burns), a detective who’s lost his sister to the curse. Two of Beth’s friends, Leann Cole (Azura Skye) and Brian Sousa (Johnny Lewis) receive calls from a cursed cell phone in rapid succession. Another friend, Taylor Anthony (Ana Claudia Talancón), desperate to stop the curse before it claims her life, turns to a TV reality host, Ted Summers (a sadly wasted Ray Wise), looking to raise his ratings on his television program, “American Miracles,” by performing an on-air exorcism on Taylor’s cursed cell phone. Eventually, Beth and Jack decide to work together to solve the supernatural mystery behind the curse.

Any horror film, lowbrow, middlebrow, or highbrow, is ultimately only as good, only as memorable as the scares it generates in moviegoers. Alas, One Missed Call falls short, far short, of even that basic filmmaking goal. Working from Andrew Klavan’s underwritten script, director Eric Valette eagerly throws in cheap scares at every opportunity. As a tactic, having offscreen characters jump into the frame at regular intervals may work, but only once or twice, not twenty or thirty times, no matter how many times it’s accompanied by a loud crash on the soundtrack. To be fair, One Missed Call does contain one genuinely suspenseful scene, but it occurs well past the point where most moviegoers will notice. The ghosts are, alas, a combination of prosthetics (good) and CGI (definitely not good), including one of the most unintentionally funny ghosts in recent memory: a ghost/demon baby holding a cell phone. How’s that for frightening?

It’s too bad really, because whatever its faults, "One Missed Call" had promise. Okay, that might be stretching things a bit, but it's still a valid point. Like "The Ring" (either the Japanese or the American versions) or "The Grudge" (again, either version), "One Missed Call’s" premise allowed for multiple set pieces, each one with the potential to top the last, as in any one of the "Final Destination" flicks, but Valette and Klavan squander that potential for all-too-brief set pieces that end just as the suspense and tension begin to become palatable. Instead we get repetitive shots of the same three or four menacing ghosts, shaking their heads, jumping forward or otherwise moving in stilted fashion. In short, everything we’ve seen before in far superior films, whether the much-lauded Japanese originals or the lesser American remakes. Either way, moviegoers should take their cue from the tile and skip "One Missed Call."

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