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Hanging on the Line: One Missed Call is laughably bad 

Bark at the MoonHere we go with another Japanese remake to accompany The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, and Pulse. The original versions have always

click to enlarge Bark at the Moon
  • Bark at the Moon
Bark at the MoonHere we go with another Japanese remake to accompany The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, and Pulse. The original versions have always achieved a creepy ghost story atmosphere, perhaps due to the fact that the Japanese have been telling these "possession" stories for centuries. Now, the tales have become a loose-cannon commodity, as spin-offs run rampant in Japan as well as in the U.S. The only thing the American versions have in common is their ability to botch a potentially cool idea. One Missed Call (a remake of the 2003 Japanese flick Chakushin Ari) is no exception. Although this idea is pretty damn far fetched, even by Japanese horror standards-ghosts in a cell phone? Yeah right, sure.

Like most previous remakes, this one tries to get your attention with gritty, creepy images, minimal soundtrack, obvious supernatural overtones, and a lot of ghost-vapors surrounding the intended victims - but not without having serious flaws immediately. The setting of the first fatality is a Japanese fish pool, bonsai trees and paper walls. The victim being about as American as you get, making the scene so ridiculous it was humorous.

The main gist of the plot is people are getting messages from themselves two days in advance of their deaths, thereby hearing their own last words, and allowing just two days to try to prevent their own deaths. Beth (Shannon Sossamon) witnesses a couple of friends die after getting creepy phone calls, and goes to the cops, who of course don't believe her. Enter detective Jack Andrews (Ed Burns in his "by-the-numbers-acting-like-a-cop" role), who believes Beth because his sister died in a similar fashion. They then embark on a quest to find the mysterious spirit making the calls with the only clues being that each victim had red candies stuck to their tongues and were in someway connected to a hospital that burned down.

There is virtually no blood or gore. The gimmicks are all super-standard fare, predictable in their timing-you know exactly when the face will jump out of the darkness and when the silhouette will sweep across the scene. The dialogue was so bad that you could have put it together with the word magnets on your fridge. The acting is all around awful with the exception of Ray Wise's (Twin Peaks) phoned-in role as an exorcism reality TV show producer. The scene where they actually try to exorcize the demons from a cell phone on national television had me laughing out loud.

The more I think about it, this flick could be construed as a comedy. Ghosts ring up on smashed phones without batteries. Centipedes crawl out of statues of Jesus. Un-bloody deaths occur by train, drowning, re-barb skewering, and larynx suffocation by ghost-fist - all absurd yet hilarious stuff. The fun in this movie is not counting how many things are ludicrous, but finding pleasure in how far beyond comprehension the film dares to go. Best quote: "If any dead people call, we're not home."

There is a subplot of abuse via flashbacks and nanny-cams, but that just gets in the way of laughing at this "what-were-they-thinking" monstrosity. By the time the movie gets to (Uh, oh spoiler alert!) the burn-victim-zombie making the phone calls, it's way to late to care - you're already on your cell phone calling your friends saying, "your never gonna believe this." As if that's not enough, the film takes a nonsensical twist near the end to lengthen the disturbingly preposterous suspense: the evil ghost showing up for about a full minute. Too bad we had to wait 126 minutes to see it...

If this wasn't a remake, I might believe its genius was on purpose. This is the kind of movie you want to see with someone so you can nudge them every three minutes and chuckle together. It didn't matter if the characters lived, breathed, text-messaged, or tickled their vapor trails, it was just too much fun watching their demonic phone problems.

At first, I thought One Missed Call might be one missed opportunity to stay home, but then I found myself a new guilty pleasure. As crazy and messed up as this movie is, it actually had a high entertainment value. Regardless if that was the film's intention, I think I got the joke.

 

One Missed Call

★★✩✩✩

Starring Ed Burns, Shannon Sossamon

Directed by Eric Valette

Rated R.

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