I’m going to admit right from the start, I hate cell phones. They’re evil, and I didn’t need a horror film to tell me about it. The world would be a safer and certainly a more courteous place without them. Just last week I was run of the highway by a Werner semi because the idiot driver was on his cell phone. So it didn’t come as any surprise that someone was bound to include them as part of a horror film. One Missed Call is simply the latest Asian Invasion film to be retooled for American audiences. What started with The Ring, which was a truly original and suspenseful film, has also given us losers like The Grudge. Unfortunately this film falls into the latter category. Believe me, I wanted so much to love this film. I was the annoying guy cheering the trailer at the local cineplex.
The premise begins simply enough. Young people are getting cell phone calls that are announced by a particular ring tone, one the phone owner doesn’t recognize. You discover that there is a new voice mail message dated from some point in the future. When you listen to the message you hear yourself, usually screaming for your life because this call chronicles the moment of your death. The bodies are found with a round red piece of hard candy in their mouths. The deaths are further linked because each call comes from the phone of the last victim. So the lesson is that not only shouldn’t you own a cell phone, but it isn’t too healthy to be on someone else’s call list. Like The Ring, once you know that you’re about to die you begin to have hallucinations leading up to the appointed time. And also like The Ring, the haunting is the result of a ghost seeking to get a message out.
Much of the final half of the film is spent on the investigation of the deaths. Detective Jack Andrews’ (Burns) sister appears to be the first victim, and he’s the first to forge a connection in the deaths. He hooks up with Beth (Sossamon) who has witnessed two of the calls and is the only one who knows that something supernatural is going on. Our ticking clock moment begins when Beth predictably gets her call, giving her less than 24 hours to unlock the secret or die as she’s already heard happen. The film treads mercilessly through tired horror clichés to what I can only describe as a series of endings. Every time I thought the film was winding down, I’d check the running time only to discover it was not over yet. I think they must have had like 5 alternative endings and decided to use them ALL.
What hurts this film more than the predictable nature of it all is the acting. The leads Ed Burns and Shannon Sossamon are terrible. If this were some low level schlock release I could have worked with it, but this was supposed to be the big time, and the filmmakers opted to call up a couple of relievers from the minors. Both couldn’t act to save their lives, and Burns is particularly annoying. His voice just grates on you after a while, and you start to wish his phone would get to ringing. The real horrifying cell phone calls occurred when these actors got a ring from their agents setting them up for this film. We all wish they’d have missed that call.
One Missed Call is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. You also have the option of a full frame version on the flip side of this fragile two-sided disc. I opted for the wide version, but I have a feeling it really didn’t matter. I probably saw too much as it is. The transfer is actually pretty darn good. I was impressed in the opening scene with the reproduction of a backyard pond where the first one bites the dust. There was a remarkable level of color definition in the murky greenish water. The film is, for the most part, dark, so colors are rarely flashy. Still, they are quite realistic at times. Black levels are pretty solid, as is shadow detail. Overall this was a pretty impressive transfer with no real compression problems or print defects to speak of.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not near as impressive as the video presentation. There were quite a few missed opportunities to enhance the creepy factor with subtle ambient sounds that never happened. Dialog is perfectly fine. The track works for the most part, but there doesn’t seem to be any sign of creativity here. A few blasts from the sub are about all the accents one will find here. This could have easily been just a stereo track for all the use of surrounds we get here.
NADA. Guess the studio felt the same way about the film.
It’s hard not to consider this a weak The Ring rip-off, because that’s certainly how I saw it. The problem is that the film is never developed well enough to make the spirit interesting. There’s a lot of wasted distraction sets dealing with Beth’s shared child abuse experiences with the spirit, but it’s all senseless red herring stuff that doesn’t work effectively as a twist. I don’t own a cell phone, and never will, so “Any dead people call, we’re not at home”.