Contains spoilers for the One Missed Call trilogy.
Arrow Video’s latest release is their usual high quality fare as they bring us a boxset of Japanese horror trilogy One Missed Call.
At its core, this is a story that’s already been told in both the Ringu and Ju-On series of films. Here, rather than a cursed video tape or haunted location, the deaths are meted out by a cursed phonecall, accompanied by a specific ringtone that always accompanies this so-called “death call”, a conceit that runs through all three films (and one TV series, but that’s not included here.)
One Missed Call, despite the somewhat overdone premise, is a fine example of Japanese horror done right. The plot revolves around Yumi Nakamura (Ko Shibasak ), a psychology student. Her friend Yoko (Anna Nagata ) receives a strange voicemail on her phone which appears to foretell her death. Initially considering it to be some sort of prank they ignore it, until Yoko dies in mysterious circumstances. Her death sets off a chain of events which leads Yumi to discover that this phenomenon has been going on since long before Yoko’s death. When Yumi receives a call with the date and time of her death, she struggles to save herself and learn the truth behind the calls before she runs out of time.
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One Missed Call has some impressively chilling moments that will have the most seasoned of horror fans rubbing down their arms as their hairs stand on end. This is the film that sets the rules as mentioned above: the cursed call from the victim’s own phone, hearing their own death, the idea that even if you change phones it will still find you etc. The death scenes here are well done, the film saturated with a palpable aura of dread from beginning to end, including a wonderfully creepy scene involving a cupboard door. The exorcism scene is beautifully executed and over the top, containing what I personally think is one of the best shots in the entire film – the moment where everyone is bustling around and Natsumi (Kazue Fukiishi) is sitting, terrified and alone in the midst of all these people who only seem interested in cashing in on her impending death, staring at her phone and waiting for the end.
For a film like this with a premise that’s been done before, it’s all about the execution, and here Takashi Miike delivers in spades. Stylish, gory, occasionally camp, frequently scary, it takes the cursed macguffin concept and makes it its own.
Moving on, the sequel One Missed Call 2 attempts to build on the lore by bringing in another deadly little ghost girl because you can never have too many creepy little girls murdering people, right?
This film follows journalist Takako Nozoe (Asaka Seto) as she investigates the string of mysterious phone call related deaths, which the police now seem to be actively aware of but powerless to prevent. Our curse victim in this story is Kyoko Okudera (Rie Mimura), a kindergarten teacher who receives the death call. It turns out that the victims from the first film had coal dust in their stomachs which appears to relate to a string of similar strange deaths in Taiwan featuring a little girl with her mouth sewn shut. Creepy, huh? Sadly… not really.
The biggest problem this movie has is that it’s simply not particularly scary. Other than one decent kill early on in the film, precious little really happens and it’s mostly just people running around and getting tossed about by ghosts. There’s an attempt to weave it back into the lore of the first film by re-introducing the first film’s scary ghost girl Mimiko but it misses the mark. The second film is, sadly, just rather boring when compared to the first. In another, perhaps unintentional, nod to Ringu there’s even a scene with a well that bears a passing resemblance to Sadako’s resting place.
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The final film in the series is the imaginatively titled One Missed Call 3: Final (no Revenge of the Missed Call! Rise of the Missed Call? The Missed Call Strikes Back? Wait, no, that would have to be the second film), and it is set during a high school trip to Korea.
In this instalment of the series, the spirit of a bullied and abused girl called Pam is meting out revenge on her bullies by weaponising the curse in the form of an email message. So far so early-2000s, right? But this time there’s a twist for a little added mayhem! The victim can save themselves by sending the message on to someone else, but only ONE forward is allowed (unlike Ringu where the curse could be passed on in perpetuity) and it can’t be to just a random number on a poster, it needs to be someone from your contact list, which leads to wonderful scenes of chaos and terror as the bullies try to stop each other from sending the message to each other. In the midst of this is fellow student Emiri and her deaf boyfriend Ahn Jin-wo who are trying to find some way to stop the message from being spread any further.
This is a FAR stronger entry into the series than number 2, with some genuine tension and some great scenes of the teens turning on each other in desperation as their chickens all come home to roost as Pam’s revenge spreads from phone to phone.
In this two disc set Arrow have done their usual astounding job, with there being far too many special features to list here, as well as lovely clean high-def transfers for all three movies which look and sound great. Special mention has to go to the short films Gomu, which is surprisingly funny as well as The Love Story which fleshes out the relationship between Emiri and Jin-Wo. Hell, there’s even a One Missed Call 2 music video which is… well, it’s a thing you can watch.
The original film gets the lion’s share of the special features, featuring a commentary track, making of, interviews, trailers, and even raw footage from the exorcism scene that can be watched from two different angles, as well as the full ‘home movie’ footage featuring Mimiko and her mother.
Three films, two good ones and one kinda so-so one with a meaty selection of special features for fans to get their teeth into. Another great job from Arrow and a set that’s definitely worth picking up for any fans of Japanese horror, or anyone who wants to find out what all the fuss is about.
The One Missed Call trilogy is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.