Shuffling and re-dealing the elements of Asian horror doesn’t make it any less tired.
A young woman alone with her cat receives a phone call shortly before mysteriously drowning. Shortly after her funeral, a friend of hers receives a phone call that she doesn’t answer. A cryptic voice mail sounds like the recipient dying, but the message is dated two days in the future and was sent from the dead woman’s phone. When the friend dies in exactly the same way as the message sounded, only Beth (Shannyn Sossamon) seems interested in discovering why the chain of calls and deaths are occurring (instead of freaking out), but even the police detective (Edward Burns) that believes her story may be powerless to stop the cycle.
The production design for One Missed Call reads like a recipe for modern horror. Freaked out victims? Check. Abandoned hospital? Check. Creepy children? Check. Silly device to perpetuate a ridiculous premise? And check. The phone and ring tone is just too silly, especially when it happens with no rhyme or reason. Pull the battery, smash it to the ground, but as soon as you get another phone in your hand, another message reminds you that death is coming. You simply cannot take it seriously, especially with the cheesy situations that seem to bring these kills about. It’s like Final Destination without the imagination in addition to taking itself way too seriously.
The sad part is that the script is a waste of a decent cast. Shannyn Sossamon does “scared but capable” pretty well but isn’t given enough material to elevate her to “scream queen.” Edward Burns is actually an unusual character playing a detective is going along with this, but his character is written to be useless. Ray Wise is “The Devil” on The CW’s “Reaper,” but here he is terribly underutilized as a smarmy television producer. All the elements are convoluted, as if no one person had an overall image of what the final film should look like let alone how to get it there. Are we really supposed to believe that, if you die angry while holding a cell phone, you can make the “Can you hear me now?” guy throw himself in front of a bus?
Even in the moments that work, there isn’t enough of a foundation to hold it up, even just to get to the next scene. It’s as if someone took three or more scripts, mined them for the money shots, then put their own name at the top. If the delivery of the plot device (the “ringtone”) had been more intimate and covert (suggesting a delusion) or if the power behind it had seemed more potent (a demon or avenging angel maybe?), the story would have carried the weight necessary to keep it interesting. As it is, One Missed Call would have you believe that if someone dies with a cell phone and your number is in the contact list, it won’t take six degrees of separation to pull you into a cheesy horror movie.
(a one skull out of four recommendation)