Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Missed Call (2003)


After Ringu exploded across the Japan, it started a whole slew of ghostly girl/techno-fear films. Of course these were all the rage for a while and eventually made it over to North America where Hollywood decided to adapt most of them with mixed results. Near the end of the craze in Japan director Takashi Miike was given the reigns of this film. While he is best known for disturbing movies like Audition and Gozu, he was ready for something a little more conventional. But would Miike be able to add his own unique twist to this style of horror film?


It all starts with a simple phone call. Yoko (Anna Nagata) doesn’t recognize the ringtone so she doesn’t answer the call. When she listens to the message, it displays a date and time that have yet to occur, and the voicemail is her voice screaming in terror. Sure enough, when that date and time arrive Yoko is brutally killed by a train. Her friend Yumi (Kou Shibasaki) is disturbed by this odd demise, and starts to investigate.

But things get more dangerous as people on Yoko’s contact list receive the same strange ringtone and hear their own demise. Her friend Natsumi (Kazue Fukiishi) turns to a television program for help, but they quickly descend into a horrifying ratings generated frenzy, as they countdown to her death. It becomes apparent that some kind of spirit is stalking people using the phone, but is there anyway to stop the fiendish creature? What does the suspicious undertaker have to do with this? Why are round red candies found near all the bodies or in their mouth? But how long will it take for Yumi to look at her phone and see the message: One Missed Call?

Good Points:
  • Some bizarre and outrageous set pieces (especially the television show sequence)
  • Does a good job building the dread and horror as the body count rises
  • Good mix of gore and creepy suspense

Bad Points:
  • Very familiar if you’ve seen Ringu or The Grudge
  • Looking for Miike’s more surreal or over the top antics, you won’t find too much here.
  • The wheels come off a bit near the end, as thrills take over for sense.


Miike takes the familiar tropes from the ghostly girl/techno-fear genre and plays within that sandbox. That means a lot of the visual elements and story construction will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Ringu or Ju-on. I did like how Miike added some social commentary with the television show and poor Natsumi. The movie is worth seeing for that plot line. I also liked his final twist on the story, and the identity of the ghostly killer. But the way the movie gets to the final act is overly convoluted and stretches the plot a few too many times. That said, the movie has some great atmosphere, creepy moments, horrific deaths and a disturbing finale. It isn’t a masterwork of horror, but it is very entertaining, and man that ringtone is just plain creepy!

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 3
Sound: 4
Acting: 3
Script: 3
Music: 3
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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  1. I’ve seen only the 2008 American remake, which didn’t do well either with critics or audiences. The question of fate and free will and whether both somehow can be true has perplexed thinkers since there were thinkers. Handled right, it still can power a plot.

    1. Yeah I heard the remake was pretty poor. I haven't seen it, but I can see how some of it wouldn't translate so well. But other elements could really work. I think the Japanese is the way to go with this one, but I would still recommend the eerie atmosphere of Ringu over this one.

  2. I caught The Ring and The Grudge recently. Both are pretty good, but I enjoyed The Grudge best because it was a bit more frightening for me, and I loved the Japanese house that it takes place it. Both films have arty tones in them though which I enjoy.

    1. I need to revise the Hollywood version of "The Ring". I haven't seen it in years. I was comparing it quite a bit to the Japanese version, which I really love, and didn't give it a fair shot. I see a lot of reviewers these days praising it.

      The Hollywood version of "The Grudge" is actually pretty close in style and feel to the Japanese version "Ju-on". So I think I like that the best of the Hollywood remakes. It has some very effective stuff in it. I also really like the score by Christopher Young. Slithery and creepy stuff and done with a very small ensemble. He really made the budget work on that one.