GORE IN THE STORE
ONE MISSED CALL TRILOGY **
Directed by Takashi Miike/Renpei Tsukamoto/Manabu Asô.
Starring Ko Shibasaki, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi, Rie Mimura, Hisashi Yoshizawa, Maki Horikita, Meisa Kuroki.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 24th February 2020.
A timely release by Arrow Video, given that the recent Oscar success of PARASITE has cast a light on Asian genre cinema (again, although most of us in the know have been savvy to its charms for years). Following their excellent release of the RINGU trilogy last year Arrow have put together another extensive set, this time featuring the ONE MISSED CALL trilogy that emerged in the early 2000s when mainstream cinema seemed to became aware of J-Horror and long-haired female ghosts became the horror movie monster to replace masked psychopaths in the minds of movie audiences looking for something a little less gorier that played up the creepiness factor.
And ONE MISSED CALL did that very thing, as did JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, PULSE, DARK WATER, MAREBITO, RETRIBUTION and countless American remakes for those audiences that didn’t want to read subtitles. ONE MISSED CALL got its own US remake in 2008 but that is not included here, although the two sequels that followed the 2003 original are and, true to the law of franchises, there are diminishing returns between the first and third instalments when it comes to enjoyment factor of the films themselves. However, it may not be a straight downwards line from beginning to end.
The basic premise of the original movie is that somebody receives a phone call on their mobile that they don’t answer; already the plot assumes a lot. Anyway, the missed call prompts the character to check their messages where they hear a message from themselves, usually followed by a scream. This is because the ‘message’ isn’t a message but the final words that person says before they die, and so in true RINGU form the surviving characters whose numbers are in the contact folder of the person who has died have to try and work out who, why, where and all the other questions that would naturally follow.
Directed by prolific filmmaker Takashi Miike, ONE MISSED CALL suffers not only from the curse in the story being too similar to RINGU and JU-ON: THE GRUDGE – both of which were much more effective – but also the curse of having then-current technology as the central plot device, which may have seemed thrilling in 2003 but viewed with 2020 eyes just seems a bit laughable.
And so to part two, where similar things begin occurring again and the mythology that began in the first movie is expanded and convoluted to try and weave out another 100-or-so minutes of predicted deaths and trying to avoid them, all the while bringing in visions of ghostly girls with their mouths sown up and a few other grim set pieces to up the horror. Despite the darker imagery ONE MISSED CALL 2 is a little lighter in tone and moves along at a slightly jauntier pace, relying more on jump scares than the oppressive vibe of Miike’s movie, but if you found the first movie a bit of a slog then this Renpei Tsukamoto-directed sequel is a little more engaging, despite not having as seasoned a director as Takashi Miike behind the camera.
ONE MISSED CALL: FINAL rounds things out and is the weakest of the three movies. Much of the atmosphere that was present at various levels in the previous two movies is virtually gone, leaving this Manabu Asô-directed movie firmly in the realms of FINAL DESTINATION-style teen horror, where the spooky curse angle is played down in favour of comical deaths and a slight slasher vibe that feels outdated even for 2006, when the American J-Horror remakes were in full swing at the box office.
All three movies look decent enough on Blu-ray without being exceptional, although that does feel in keeping with how they were originally shot. Extras are numerous and, if you are a hardcore J-Horror fan, no doubt essential for your collection but given that the movies themselves feel like short story ideas padded out to overlong running times you have to be dedicated to want to work your way through archival production diaries, alternate endings, music videos and tie-in shorts that serve to expand what the main features don’t seem concerned with doing. As with all of these box sets, Arrow have put the work in to make sure you get your money’s worth and leave no stone unturned when it comes to special features but ONE MISSED CALL is a franchise that feels too derivative of the more iconic curse movies that came before it and, despite a few solid set pieces of victims being contorted to breaking point, it is something of an endurance test to sit through all three movies, let alone delve into their production history or feel the need to re-watch them. Buy it if you must, if only to fill in that gap in your box set collection, but unlike the previously mentioned J-Horror staples, ONE MISSED CALL and its (needless) sequels have not stood the test of time all that well, not that they were all that innovative or essential to start with.