One Missed Opportunity

ONE MISSED CALL, based on a Japanese movie I’ve never seen that was in turn based upon a Japanese novel I never read, is unfortunately not a movie I will wholeheartedly recommend. It has moments, and gets very close to being something worthwhile, but just when it’s about to get there, it pulls back. Ah well, the movie can still hold bragging rights over the American remake of DARK WATER, which is the all-time champion of what not to do.

The poster is damn creepy – shame it’s only based on a minor background detail – but what I have to ask is this: Do I really care about a malevolent spirit that kills people through their cell-phones? Yes, admittedly, I gave in and purchased one of the heinous devices a few months back, but I keep it turned off except in case of emergency or missed connection. Those who use them all the time, to be honest, are the types of people I would like to see murdered by evil spirits. Hey, it’s quicker than the brain tumor you’re quietly nursing.

Things begin in predictable fashion when a brain-dead hottie (Meagan Good, in the Drew Barrymore SCREAM role) lets her cat get away from her, which in this kind of movie is as dumb as having sex but way less fun. Sure enough, in short order she’s being drowned by a mysterious zombie hand, and thankfully, her cat meets the same fate for being a bitchy feline. Seriously, pets need to pay for leading their owners to death.

Soon enough, pal Beth (Shannyn Sossamon, turning 30 this year and thus shouldn’t be still playing college students) figures out that people are receiving cell phone calls that play the sounds of the recipient dying, and are date-stamped with the exact time – it’s up to her and flirty cop Jack (Ed Burns), whose sister may have been the first victim, to figure out why. In the interim between getting the call and dying, people hallucinate scary Japanese-style zombies, and lots of centipedes. This is progress. Back when DR. NO came out, the filmmakers had a tarantula attack James Bond, even though it was a centipede in the book, and centipedes are actually way more dangerous. That the multi-legged critters are now shorthand for evil says that people today are creeped out by the correct bugs.

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Oh yeah, and Margaret Cho plays a comic relief cop, which is really odd. If I’m thinking scary, I don’t think of her, unless I’m a Republican homophobe (hint: I’m not). Instead, I think of bad comedy. And in this case, bad casting.

What ultimately ensues is kind of a rip-off of THE RING – yes, a malevolent dead girl is behind it all, but this time she has a short haircut, which kinda makes it different, though I still have no clue what her connection is to the main characters, maybe because I had lots of beers first. The ending is silly, and proves that THE ORPHANAGE was totally right to eschew CGI ghosts. Sossamon and Burns really aren’t the right costars for this either. They seem like they’re in the wrong movie, and a forced attempt at romantic chemistry near the end doesn’t work.

That said, the movie doesn’t truly suck – there are moments when you think it’s right on track to be amazing. It veers off that track too much to be worth the ride, but if it’s ever on network TV some night that you’re drunk and desperate for viewing, it won’t hurt.

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