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  • 15
  • Horror, Mystery
  • 2003
  • 107 mins

One Missed Call

One Missed Call


Takashi Miike's second horror venture is a ghost-in-the-machine chiller in the style of Ringu


After Hideo Nakata merged traditional long-haired she-ghosts with the modern trappings of technology to create Ringu (1998), South-East Asia's film industry (and the Hollywood remake machine) went into overdrive, slavishly imitating Nakata's winning formula and eventually milking it dry.

Only Takashi Miike's first foray into horror, Audition (1999), a uniquely twisted psychological thriller which is still one of the most viscerally shocking horror films of all time, owed nothing to the Ringu model of J-horror. It is a surprise then that Miike's long-awaited return to the genre with One Missed Call (2003) should so closely follow all the conventions of a Nakata-style chiller. But what the film lacks in originality, it makes up for with the baroque exuberance of its execution.

Students begin receiving voicemail messages, apparently from themselves, recording the last moments of their future deaths - and then die a few days later exactly as presaged in the messages, slowly and in agony.

The police file the cases as suicides or accidents but Yumi Nakamura (Shibasaki), a child psychology student, has witnessed several of these deaths and knows there is something else at work. Soon she has joined forces with Hiroshi Yamashita (Tsutsumi), the brother of one of the first victims, and together they try to work out how a disused hospital, the distinctive sound of an asthma inhaler and the presence of candy in each of the victims' mouths are all connected with the series of murders. It is an investigation that becomes all the more urgent and personal once Yumi herself receives a call and knows that her number is up.

After the first grand guignol death, our heroine runs into some schoolgirls discussing the horror. One girl asserts that the victim, Yoko (Nagata), must have received "the call that foretells death" - which is the plot of Ringu in skeleton. Another girl says of the supernatural perpetrator: "I don't know the full story, but I heard she's a woman who died leaving a grudge in this world" - the plot of Takashi Shimizu's Ju On: The Grudge (2002).

One Missed Call is unashamed of its cinematic appropriations - including Ringu's mad dash against the clock to forestall the protagonist's death; Ju-On's torn-up family photo, ghostly shower invasion and haunted cupboard; the mother-daughter and surrogacy motifs from Nakata's Dark Water (2002); and a phone-clutching corpse right out of Ahn Byeong-Ki's Phone (2002). The images of abusive romance see Miike coming full circle to his own preoccupations in Audition.

Yet all these borrowings are sign-posted too openly to qualify as thefts. Far from being a dreary slice of inexcusable unoriginality, this is a very knowing pastiche, relating to the whole post-Nakata J-horror genre in much the same way as Wes Craven's Scream (1996) relates to the standard slasher movie.

One Missed Call is so deliriously over-coded, with so many different elements taken from so many different sources, that, despite its highly derivative nature, it becomes impossible to second-guess what will happen next or how all these disparate pieces will fit together. Although the film is full of witty postmodern nods to its own genre, Miike never forgets to be genuinely frightening. One prolonged sequence in particular, taking place in an abandoned, ill-lit hospital building, is likely to induce near hysteria in audiences.

Despite what might be regarded by some viewers as an excess of exposition near the finish, Miike manages to engineer an ending with strange ambiguities that will leave you feeling as though you too have received a mysterious message that is just beyond comprehension. This haunting close will make viewers want to see the film for a second time.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Atsushi Ida, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi, Anna Nagata, Renji Ishibashi, Kou Shibasaki, Yutaka Matsushige, Goro Kishitani, Karen Oshina, Kazue Fukiishi, Mariko Tsutsui
  • Director: Takashi Miike
  • Screen Writer: Minako Daira
  • Writer (Book): Yasushi Akimoto
  • Producer: Naoki Sato, Fumio Inoue, Yoichi Arishige
  • Photographer: Hideo Yamamoto
  • Composer: Kôji Endô

In a nutshell

Miike's return to the horror genre is a slicker and less original affair than Audition, but also sharply dissects the J-horror phenomenon even as it scares the hell out of you.

by Anton Bitel

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