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November 07, 2005

One Missed Call

Chakushin Ari
Takashi Miike - 2003
Tokyo Shock Region 1 DVD

I couldn't go through October without one horror film from Takashi Miike. One Missed Call is somewhat atypical of Miike. Most of the film is slow and deliberately paced, with bits of flash cutting at several key points, but closer in style to Audition. Though there is some graphic horror, it is relatively restrained, especially compared to Ichi the Killer. There is even an absence of the gross out humor that one finds in films like Citizen Q or even Gozu.

One Missed Call is somewhat closer in spirit to Ringu and Ju-On. A group of college students receive messages on their cell phones that are dated a couple of days in advance. The messages are preceded by a ring-tone that does not belong to the phone. The students hear there own voices with their last words just before they die. The next person to die is someone listed in the previous victim's cell phone address book.

The main character is a college student, Yumi, who is studying Child Psychology. Eventually it is revealed that she was a victim of child abuse who is forced to address her past in order to seek out the source of the deadly phone calls. As interesting as Yumi's story is, and as intriguing as the mystery of the calls is, the story makes little sense when attempting to tie the various threads together. I've seen several J-Horror films and know that they have their own kind of logic. Even on their own terms, films like Ringu or Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films do not require an extreme amout of suspension of disbelief. Where One Missed Call doesn't work is that it tries to say something serious about child abuse, suggests that the dead have their own separate heaven, but can't take the time to explain the connection between the "killer" and the first victim. I can accept a "dead" cell phone receiving a call, but I have trouble with sloppy story telling.

Even if the narrative does not hold up, Miike's imagery is consistent. Miike constrasts crowds of people, with shots of characters alone or with one other person. The contrasts are also between spiritual and physical isolation, as well as the sense of connection between people, through bonds created by family or technology. While not on the level of Audition, Miike creates a sense of dread with slow tracking shots with people in very lonely places.

Miike's own take on One Missed Call fron an interview in The Film Asylum: "At present there are a lot of Japanese movies about ghost stories which are becoming popular on an international level. This film takes the ghost story format in a different direction. A ghost is always challenging the main female protagonist but at the last they have a meeting point. Therefore it offers a difference to other movies of this type as the two come together."

Posted by peter at November 7, 2005 01:16 AM