If the fundamental principle behind the horror genre is to explore all the things that go bump in the night, then it goes unsaid that the number one rule of any horror movie is simply this: Don’t Be Boring. Unlike other genres, filmmakers can get away with quite a lot when it comes to horror films. The main lead could be Captain Cardboard, the script could be written by a second grader and the zipper could be showing on the back of the villain’s costume—whatever. So long as people end up dying in creative ways (brownie points if they end up spewing buckets of cherry red blood), you’ll at least gain some street cred with cult classic, B horror film aficionados. And if you’re lucky enough to end up going to bed with all the lights in your house still on, cowering under your blankets like a five-year-old who’s still afraid of the dark, well then that, my friends, is an A+ horror movie.
“One Missed Call” is not an A+ horror movie. It’s pretty much the furthest thing from scary that a horror movie could be and still classify within the genre (barely). The film is a remake of the popular 2003 Japanese film “Chakushin Ari” by J-Horror veteran Takeshi Miike. With a pedigree like that, it’s hard to imagine that some Asian horror fans won’t at least be intrigued by the U.S. remake. Resist the urge. Not only does “One Missed Call” break the cardinal rule of “Don’t Be Boring,” it breaks it on every possible level. The characters are flat, one-note horror movie tropes. The deaths are unimaginative and lame. The plot is riddled with holes large enough to drive an 18-wheeler truck through. And worst of all, the premise is just plain stupid. Miike fans might want to stick my head on pike, but I stand by that statement.
Like the original, “One Missed Call” follows a group of friends who receive mysterious voicemails from the future that play back recordings of their own grisly deaths. I suppose there’s some larger metaphor at work here about the evils of technological overdependence. And sure, that’s a relevant and interesting theme for a film. But after a while, you get tired of watching a movie where people are forcibly glued to their handsets for the sake of the film’s premise. Part of the reason is that the actors are only capable of portraying two emotions: shocked or somewhat upset. The biggest offender is lead actress Shannyn Sossamon, whose vacuous stare and toneless line delivery ensure that “One Missed Call” is just about dead on arrival.
There are some decent scenes in the movie—mostly in the hospital toward the end of the film and the obligatory scenes explaining who’s behind the killings. But for every decent scene, there are probably ten more that inspire fits of hair-pulling rage. The hard candy found in each victim’s mouth is a delightfully creepy idea that just utterly fails because of poor execution. Fans of “Chakushin Ari” will also be annoyed that the remake throws out the admittedly creepy ending of the original in favor of a more sterile, typically Hollywood ending. If a friend suggests this film, best call it a night and read some Stephen King. If a boyfriend/girlfriend suggests this film (and really likes it), it just might be time to reconsider your relationship. Seriously. I want the last 87 minutes of my life back.