Once again, moviegoers and critics alike find themselves in January, the month where the Hollywood awards begin to be handed out and the number of new offerings at the local multiplex begins to diminish. Gone is the glut of movies fighting for the all important Christmas dollar where, 5 or even 6 new wide releases could come out on the same day. In fact the cinematic landscape in the months to come can look as bare and cold as the weather. Although many of the Oscar contenders that New York and L.A. begin to filter out across the country, most of what audiences are left to choose from fall in what us movie review professionals call "the dumping ground". Twice a year, in late August and early September and then again from February to March, the studios release all the movies they feel have less commercial potential. It can make for a rather depressing reality check after the strong month of December.
One predictable element of the early part of the year's release slate is the release of a teenager-themed horror movie -- usually a remake of a foreign film with a young hip, probably mostly unknown cast -- and this year is no different. First out of the gate is One Missed Call, a remake of the Asian film of the same name from a few years back.
After a brief prologue which details a fire at a local hospital and the typical pre-credit sequence death of the highest profile actor in the film, we as an audience are introduced to Beth Raymond (Shannon Sossamon), who is having a party at her place. Her best friend Leann (Azura Skye) has just split up with Bryan (Johnny Lewis), and in doing so recently moved out of the place all three shared. Leann comes over and is spooked; seems a mutual friend has recently passed away from a freak accident involving a pool (the pre-credit sequence). Leann has been acting strange lately, seeing things that weren't really there, and looks for comfort from Beth. Not long after she does this, her cell phone mysteriously rings in a ring tone that is not her own. She checks the call display and it shows that she has missed a call, however the date stamp is from the future and from her recently deceased friend. Then she checks the voicemail and it's her own voice on the other end. Elsewhere, detective Jack Andrews (Ed Burns) is called in to pick up the pieces after the sudden and strange death of his sister in a hospital fire. Meanwhile, things get weirder when a freak accident occurs at the exact time on the voicemail, killing Leann in the process. Looking for help, Beth turns to the police who initially resist her story as being that of a raving lunatic, until Jack begins to take her seriously and investigate the case as the time counts before the proposed time of Beth's death.
If the above plot summary of One Missed Call doesn't make a lot of sense, it's because the movie doesn't make a lot of sense either. Based on the novel by Japanese writer Yasushi Akimoto, the screenplay by Andrew Klaven is full of almost every nonsensical aspect you come to expect from one of these films. Now I for one don't expect the story to make perfect sense, but there is a limit to how much I can suspend my disbelief. First of all, a few simple logical errors. At one point in one of the film's funniest groan-type moments, our heroine and her soon to be dead friend decide that to stop themselves from receiving their 'death call' they can simply take the battery out of the phone and then it will cease to function. Surprise surprise, the phone continues to ring even after the battery has been removed. Even if this wasn't completely illogical, most phones with voicemail service will still receive voicemail even when the unit is off. By movie logic, would it not have been easier for the girls simply to call up their service provider and disable their voicemail service? Oh wait, a few minutes later they do try something similar in cancelling their plans and getting new numbers. Like that's going to stop the pesky spirits.
Director Eric Vallette isn't left with much to work with, and while the pacing of the film is generally acceptable, at about the 70-minute mark things start to drag after the main story is seemingly finished. Also working against the film is that a lot of the subplots that tack on minutes to the running times are completely unneeded, and what could have been a good 40-50 minute Masters of Horror episode becomes a draggy 87-minute feature. I like Ray Wise as much as the next Twin Peaks fan, and am glad he's back on the small screen in Reaper, but his appearance here as sort of a horror Twilight Zone-esque TV producer is just stupid and, well, appears to be one of those "I need the paycheck"-type gigs
Shannon Sossamon has been criticized in the past for her acting ability, and while I've never thought she was the best actress on the planet, she's better than the material she's given to work with here.There's nothing really bad about her performance, just that it doesn't scream out as something that will be recognized as a defining moment of her career. Edward Burns is also serviceable in his part as the cop that takes Beth's claims seriously. The rest of the supporting cast is nothing special, with the exception of Megan Good, who has the Drew Barrymore in Scream role here as the pre-credit death. You know your film is in trouble when the highest profile actor you can get to kill off in the opening death is from youth favorites You Got Served, Stomp the Yard and Roll Bounce.
All things totaled up, One Missed Call was a little better than I was expecting given the late night nature of the screening, the fact it's probably the 10th or 20th Japanese horror remake in the past few years, and the no-name nature of the production team. In terms of where it ranks amongst its genre buddies, it's certainly by far not the worst of the bunch, but it's also far from the best. I was never really in pain watching it, though that's not to say I was enjoying myself either. Sure, the plot is nonsensical, but at this point can you really expect anything different? One Missed Call falls smack-dab in the middle of the pack in that it's not so horrifically bad that I wanted to run from the theater eager to get my time back, but it's also not worth seeking out. If this film were to signal the death of this subgenre of film, it would not be the end of the world in my eyes, but with more on the way and the decent box office return on opening weekend, it might be too early yet.
Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.