One Missed Call (2008)

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*. Here we go again. A beautiful young woman in a low-cut top (Meagan Good, no relation), alone at home with a cat, gets a phone call. We know she is about to die. Why? Because this is the introduction to a teen horror film so she is marked as the First Victim (the open parenthesis of the Last Girl). Also, she is black. You may not know anything about this movie, but you know for sure it’s not going to have a black heroine. That’s settled.
*. Then the cat gets it. Enjoy that part. It’s the only breath of originality and fun you’ll get in this movie.
*. One Missed Call is not just unexceptional in any way, it’s also second-hand. Technically it’s a remake of a 2003 Takashi Miike film that was derided by Entertainment Weekly as being “so unoriginal that [it] could almost be a parody of J-horror tropes.” Why anyone would want to remake a project so played out is anybody’s guess. Are there no fresh ideas in Hollywood at all?
*. The basic idea, and main elements, go back to Ringu. Here again is a creepy little girl wreaking her vengeance from beyond the grave, with the heroine and her boyfriend trying to solve the mystery of some past crime before their time runs out. As in Ringu they think they’ve laid the curse to rest but by now the audience knows much better and there is a violent epilogue where the demon appears looking very, very much like the risen Sadako in the American remake of Ringu, The Ring.
*. Isn’t it rather odd that the one girl, Taylor, is killed on live TV, in front of a number of witnesses, and nothing ever comes of it? I know the lights went out and the video died on them, but still. Everyone was right there.
*. I’m trying hard to think of some reason to recommend this film but I’m coming up with nothing. I’m not sure the story makes any sense, but after a while I stopped trying to figure it out. The notion of viral cellphone-horror is nothing new, and indeed we had been down the J-horror-followed-by-an-American-remake route already with Kairo/Pulse.
*. The subject of child abuse is raised, and I thought this held promise as a sort of emotional virus that would play itself out through violence, but in the end nothing is done with it. Beth’s history of being abused by her mother is simply dropped, while the abuse in the back story turns out to be a false lead. So nothing there.
*. I suppose the most interesting thing about it is just how savage the reviews and public response were. By various analytics this was determined to be one of the very worst films of the decade.
*. Judged on its own, this is hard to justify. It’s a bad movie, but not that bad. What I think lies behind all the ill feeling is just how derivative a film it is. You can only go to the well so often before you get called out on it. By 2008 we were well past the expiry date for a movie like this. Critics and audiences were fed up.

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