Review: One Missed Call

Just when you thought it was safe to enter movie theaters again, "One Missed Call" (IMDb listing) is here to remind audiences that Hollywood's J-Horror remake thirst has not been quenched. A loose riff on Takashi Miike's 2003 spine-tingling hit "Chakushin ari," "Call" is the first major motion picture release of 2008, in charge of setting the tone for the lengthy year to come.

My friends, the future does not look promising. In fact, it feels like a swift kick to the groin.

Finding her friends are quickly being murdered mere days after receiving a phone call from a sinister spirit, Beth (played by the perpetually vapid Shannyn Sossamon) is frantic to find clues that piece together this supernatural mystery. Enlisting the help of a concerned detective (Edward Burns) who holds intimate knowledge of this deadly phenomenon, the two poke around the case, putting their lives at risk when the killer force turns its attention to them.

Certainly there's much more to the plot of "One Missed Call," but the real test of the picture is how much half-hearted, unappetizing filmmaking one can stomach before they completely stop caring about anything or anyone on the screen. Personally, I gave up about 30 minutes in; at first genuinely interested in how French director Eric Valette was going to address the immense heaps of baloney that pile up swiftly in this lackadaisical horror flick, only to realize he has no idea what the heck he's doing.

The truth is this: there's no way something like "Chakushin ari" could ever translate to American audiences. Call it the magic touch of an Eastern filmmaking landscape, but furious phantoms hiding out in cell phones, utilizing killer ring tones to announce certain doom on the horizon is a challenge for softer sensibilities. "One Missed Call" attempts to play by vague supernatural rules but the execution is atrocious, gutting mystery for endless boo scares, and inviting the audience to ruthlessly mock the feature's stunning absence of elementary logic.

With precious character development ripped out of the 80-minute film in favor of a highlight reel of death, the casting of Edward Burns and Shannyn Sossamon as our intrepid heroes (it's a tennis match of lousy acting), and winding a mystical story around the film so tight, only the most patient will be able to deduce the puzzle (assuming there's actually a puzzle in the middle of this garbage), "One Missed Call" is begging for unintentional laughs. How else to process a film where the lead characters stall for 40 minutes of screen time before someone finally realizes, "Hey, let's just get rid of the phones!" And don't get me started on the sequence where a religious television program tries to perform an exorcism on one of the phones.

Valette is simply far too enamored with the frightening genre details (creepy crawly bugs, ghost-face kids, text-messaging rates) to really concentrate on telling this ludicrous story. He's like every newcomer to the American film industry: scare 'em with a little PG-13 nonsense and no one will mind the rest of the rotten ingredients. A tried and true method to box office gold, however I can't help but feel this absurd movie might be the exception to the rule.

Filmfodder Grade: D-