One Missed Call
Moviemakers have long understood the power of a ringing phone as an instrument of suspense---the uncertainty of the caller's identity. (Think When a Stranger Calls, The Ring and Phone Booth to name a few fright inducing films.) Now with the proliferation of wireless communication, cell phones are becoming tools of the horror genre.
In One Missed Call, Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon) has watched three friends (Ana Claudia Talancon, Azura Skye, Johnny Lewis) die in gruesome succession during the past week. Before their demise each of them received a missed call notice from the most recently deceased. But the voice in the message belongs to the phone owner and predicts the date, time and final words of the one who is about to bite the dust. The arrival of the call, signaled by an ominous ring tone, initiates some creepy hallucinations and panic as the victim faces his or her final hours.
However, when Beth's own cell chimes with the haunting melody, she refuses to sit by passively waiting for her death. Enlisting the help of police detective Jack Andrews (Edward Burns) whose own sister died under similar circumstances, Beth resolves to track the creepy killer to the source.
While dialing up the new technology for spreading fear, the film's makers still rely on all the old standbys---rain, heavy panting, fleeting shadows and the perpetually dark sets. (Doesn't anybody believe in turning on the lights?) Unfortunately, the combination of eerie ingredients fails to produce the kind of scares it intended. Jump scenes become cinematically predictable thanks to the building score and the widening eyes of the actor on screen. Grisly accidents--impaling, dismemberment and strangulation during an exorcism ritual--add to a growing number of corpses but are more grotesque than scary. Even a suicide (seen through a flashback), fire casualties, child abuse and a chilling drowning are more disturbing than terrifying.
And by the time this remake of a Japanese film concludes, there are too many storylines left dangling and only a marginal explanation for all the gore on screen. Combined with frequent profanities and some brief sexual dialogue, those factors may encourage most families to let this film ring through rather than picking up when the call comes in.