Every once in a while, a horror flick comes along that is so empty-headed, so undecipherable, and so utterly devoid of originality, that one wonders how in the world the script ever made it onto the desk of a studio executive, let alone got produced and released. 'One Missed Call' is just such a movie -- a remake of the fairly-effective Japanese chiller 'Chakushin Ari' that takes the basic set-up of the original and turns it into such an incomprehensible mess of hoary conventions and lame cliches that it might have been enjoyable camp, if only we could have actually understood what the heck was going on.
I'll try to explain the plot, which is so badly structured and executed that it feels almost as if some production assistant forgot to Xerox a few pages of the script before bringing it to the set. The set-up is at least intriguing. Several seemingly-unrelated people start receiving voice-mails from their future selves with messages that include the date, time, and details of their deaths (these messages are usually accompanied by visions of random strangers with 'Exorcism of Emily Rose'-type creepy-faces, perhaps provided in order to have something cool to put on the movie posters). Stumbling into this nightmare is Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon), whose friends begin dropping one by one, so she enlists the aid of cop Jack Andrews (Edward Burns), who, strangely, believes her. Together, they set out to solve the mystery, while the script piles one incomprehensible plot twist on top of the next as the film lumbers to its illogical, cheap-shock climax.
It's an old cliche of horror films, but it remains true -- you gotta care about the characters! Unfortunately, 'One Missed Call' only gives us caricatures. Sossamon is an actress I've admired before and one I'm sure I'll admire again, but quite frankly, she gives a terrible performance here -- stiff, uninterested, and unsexy. Burns (clearly slumming to finance his next indie flick) is just as slack-jawed, and his Jack Andrews is a composite of all the detective characters seen in the 'Saw' films. The rest of the cast is so nondescript that five minutes after turning off the movie, I couldn't even remember who had died or how!
Stylistically, the film is also bland. Director Eric Valette doesn't even try to recreate the style of Takashi Miike, who helmed the original 'Chakushin Ari.' To his credit, Valette does go for an admirably restrained tone of escalating dread, but the pacing is as slow as molasses (it's certainly a far cry from the more kinetic, overtly-violent tone utilized by Miike). This only lays bare the film's narrative deficiencies, giving us far too much time to rip apart the inconsistencies. 'One Missed Call' is also the latest casualty of the "PG-13" syndrome, where all of the film's gore and shocks have been so watered down (and choppily so -- the editing is lousy) that the film wouldn't scare your average Disney Channel tween.
Adding to the lack of adult scares, the script reduces the potent ideas of the original film to such a mass of incomprehension that 'One Missed Call' is pretentious in its very attemptto be pretentious -- it's just another body count flick masquerading as something more intelligent. The movie shamelessly rips off the death-every-ten-minutes structure of the 'Final Destination' franchise, but it's comparatively brain-dead, since at least those movies weaved some intriguing existentialist ideas into the form of a standard teen thriller. All 'One Missed Call' does is trot out its lame "creative murder" setpieces while ladling on repetitive jump scares and endless shots of creepy-faced ghosts. We've seen this all before in movies like 'The Grudge' and 'The Ring' and 'Dark Water' and (insert favorite Japanese horror remake here), and done much, much better.
Perhaps, had 'One Missed Call' at least been coherent and creepy, I could have forgiven its complete lack of originality (after all, even the best modern scare flicks like 'The Others' and 'The Orphanage' have plenty of borrowed parts), but this is a film made with so little passion, and lacking even basic respect for the audience's intelligence, that it's ultimately insulting. This is the kind of flick that gives horror movies a bad name, and I'm surprised a major studio like Warner would even bother releasing it (shouldn't Lionsgate have picked it up?) As a lover of horror movies, I beg you -- please don't answer 'One Missed Call.'
Warner presents 'One Missed Call' as an HD DVD/DVD combo, in 1080p/VC-1 video and at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. (The transfer is identical to the previously-released Blu-ray.) It's an effective presentation, one that is in fact far superior to the movie it supports.
The film has a moody, shadowy vibe, but it's not too dark. Blacks are nice and firm, and there's ample contrast so the image certainly pops. Depth is above average and quite detailed. The film uses frequent closes-ups that look great, and the use of frequent CGI meshes well with the live action. Colors are vibrant but not too strong, though the palette is skewed towards blue-green, so fleshtones don't always appear natural. While the image is sharp, I unfortunately noticed some edge enhancement, and there is also a fairly consistent level of noise, albeit slight. 'One Missed Call' isn't really top-tier demo material, but it certainly looks very good.
A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit) is offered in English, along with a Descriptive Video Service 5.1 mix (for the hearing impaired) and Dolby Digital 51. Surround dubs (640kbps) in French-Quebec and Spanish. I wasn't as impressed with the audio as I was with the video -- it's just OK.
For a sinister horror flick about phone calls, I expected a far better surround presence. The rears just aren't sustained in terms of ambiance, and only a few shock discrete effects really stand out. The score could also have been better presented throughout. Dynamics are better, with strong bass that's more than adequate for the material, and a clean, polished sense of realism and fidelity. Dialogue is also well-balanced. 'One Missed Call' hardly sounds bad, but it never blew me away.
'One Missed Call' bombed at the box office, so it's no surprise that Warner shows a complete lack of faith in its video release. There is nary an extra here -- not even a trailer. Talk about getting no dial tone...
Wow, what a bad movie. 'One Missed Call' is not scary, not believable, and not even so-bad-it's-good. It's simply dull. This HD DVD/DVD combo release is serviceable as last month's Blu-ray release, giving us strong video, decent audio, and absolutely zippo in the way of extras. This one screams "Skip It!", and even diehard horror fans might find it a tough slog.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.