Retro Review: ONE MISSED CALL (2007){0}

We could start with the fact that January and February are generally considered “the dumping grounds,” where studios manage to unload their lamest flicks with very little in the way of fanfare. Or we could note that One Missed Call is YET ANOTHER American remake of a (very recent) Asian horror flick, and just start to dismiss the thing right there. OR we could simply point our arrows towards the “ugh, it’s PG-13″ target and, really, that’s pretty much all a horror fan has to hear these days. But with all these strikes (and more!) against the flick, I still walked into One Missed Call with a stupid sense of optimism — that maybe this was one of those very few J-horror/A-horror remake packages that actually had something to offer. (Like The Ring, for example, or the underrated Dark Water.) Alas, no. My early-year genre-fan hopefulness was crushed beneath wave after wave of cinematic ineptitude. Eric Valette’s One Missed Call starts out dry, goofy, and dull — and it somehow manages to get worse with each passing reel.

The whole sub-genre feels painfully old-hat by now, but here’s one more “ghostly technology” tale for those who live to savor every last table scrap left over from The Ring and The Grudge. (Let’s face it; even the original One Missed Call was pretty much a knock-off of the aforementioned movies, so what chance does a mindless American remake have?) The gimmick is this: Haunted cell phones. Yeah. Scary. Apparently what happens is you get a phone call, and you hear your own voice gasping its final words — and then (all together now) a couple of days later you’re killed in some horrible accident. It’s every J-horror convention you’ve ever seen, slathered with a thick coat of paint that anyone who’s seen Final Destination will find horribly familiar. There’s nothing on the screen that gives you the impression there was any real passion, energy, or creativity at work. This is assembly-line studio product of the quickest, cheapest, and most annoyingly inert kind. It’s a lot like the Pulse remake: aimless, uneventful, and instantly forgettable.

Aside from a bunch of one-note ciphers / eventual corpses, our characters are: a doe-eyed psychology student whose friends start dying, and a really bland yet burnt-out cop whose … sister … just also died somehow mysteriously! And get this: The deaths are related. Not just to each other, but also to a string of ridiculously underwritten side-characters AND a deadly-dull back-story that fills the dead air with subplots about abused children, unsolved arson, and some of the lamest special effects of the last ten years. By the time this woeful (yet oh-so-“teen friendly”) wreck of a movie lurches to a close with a pair of terribly anti-climactic set-pieces, you’ll begin to wonder who this product was made FOR, exactly. It’s not even remotely scary, which leaves the horror fans out. But it’s also way too boring to really poke fun at*, which leaves the hecklers little to do besides yawn, shift, and check their watches.

French filmmaker Eric Valette (Malefique) was, one must assume, hired for his horror skills, but then how does one explain the complete lack of tension, the laughable scare scenes, the stupidly unconvincing creatures, and the complete and total void where the “atmosphere” should be? (Loud noises and dumb hallucinations we’ve got plenty of.) If, however, you’re among those who were just dying to see a Shannyn Sossamon / Ed Burns pairing … I worry about you just a little. The likable yet decidedly one-note character actors are asked to anchor a flick so laughably written, so sloppily edited, and so entirely bereft of energy — I doubt any actor could save this mess. To the bored teenagers who simply have to go see a new movie on Friday night … don’t say I didn’t warn you. Everyone else, trust me. I can be a pretty charitable guy with this sort of stuff, but One Missed Call isn’t even worthy of a Blockbuster free rental coupon. I don’t care how cute Shannyn Sossamon is.

(* OK, there’s one scene that really made me laugh. Heroine girl and boring cop are planning their next move. They arrange to meet up after she’s done at the library and he’s done some boring investigation stuff. He gives her a second cell-phone, they give each other some extra words of encouragement, and say their goodbyes. And then they drive away in the same car. It’s really weird.

Fine, one more: About an hour into the flick, heroine girl bemoans the fact that she only has about four hours to solve the evil cell phone mystery before becoming another victim — but a few scenes later, she’s seen waking up from a nap? The hell is going on here?? And don’t even get me started on the part when Ray Wise performs a fake exorcism on live television. It’s all too stupid to remember on purpose.)

But for the most part, One Missed Call isn’t goofy enough to laugh at. Just dumb and dull.