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  One Missed Call Phone Phear
Year: 2003
Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Kou Shibasaki, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Anna Nagata, Atsushi Ida, Mariko Tsutsui, Azusa, Karen Oshima, Renji Ishibashi
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: College student Yumi (Kou Shibasaki) is spending time in a cafe with her friends and they are exchanging stories of phobias, both their own and other people's. As she listens, someone relates a tale of a ghost whose arm is seen hanging over its victim's shoulder - but could that be a ghostly hand on Yumi? Maybe not, but her friend Yoko (Anna Nagata) is standing next to her dressed in black because she has just come from a funeral. They both head to the bathroom so she can change, and when they do, Yoko's phone gets a call... apparently from herself.

Director Takashi Miike had tried his hand at a host of other genres along with his own brand of weirdness, so why not a more conventional J-Horror effort, complete with a vengeful female ghost with long, black hair? Those anticipating a more out there Miike movie were left disappointed by the apparent anonimity of the man behind the camera here, but there were a few offbeat touches to compensate those looking for them. That said, it is true that any of the filmmakers usually tackling this kind of material could easily have handled it with the same level of success.

For the early stages, which are really the better, Miike works up a pleasingly low-key, dreamlike atmosphere to accompany the dread of getting a phone call from yourself. Poor old Yoko finds out to her cost that receiving such a message - her's was herself being surprised it was raining, followed by a bloodcurdling scream - signals your imminent doom at the time in the future the call was meant to be sent. So when Yumi hears her giving her the same message to her one night soon after, she is horriified to discover Yoko has been run over by a train.

A neatly bizarre image sees Yoko's severed hand ringing her phone just after the incident, perhaps a witty comment on how some are so addicted to their mobiles that they continue to use them even in death, and One Missed Call could have used more humour even if it was of the sick variety such as this. As it is, we have a mystery to solve, and that is where the messages are coming from as another of Yumi's friends gets one shortly before he takes a dive down a lift shaft, but he didn't even do this while on the phone, which seems a bit of a cheat.

In fact, this could have used some stronger kind of mythology about its plotline to make it more satisfying, as we are told more about the ghost that is bumping off phone users. It's all to do with a mother who was responsible for abusing her daughter in a case of Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy, and she now appears to be taking her revenge from beyond the grave. There's more to it than that, including a twist, but when Yumi inevitably gets one of those calls, the film turns into a race against time to track the source of the virus-like condition. Some of this has a decent urban myth quality about it, and odd details like the boiled sweet in the victims' mouths is interesting, but the film doesn't know to quit while it's ahead, and you may lose patience with each fresh revelation dragging out what could have been snappier. Music by Kôji Endô.

Aka: Chakushin ari.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Takashi Miike  (1960 - )

Japan’s most controversial director, notorious for his dauntingly prolific output and willingness to push the boundaries of taste. Miike started working as an assistant director in the late 80s, before moving into making straight-to-video thrillers in 1991. He made his feature debut in 1995 with the violent cop thriller Shinjuku Triad Society, and since then has averaged around seven films year.

His best best known pictures are the deeply twisted love story Audition, the blackly comic gorefest Ichi the Killer, cannibal comedy musical Happiness of the Katakuris and the often surreal Dead or Alive trilogy. Films such as The Bird People in China and Sabu showed a more restrained side. With later works such as samurai epic 13 Assassins and musical For Love's Sake he showed no signs of slowing down, reaching his hundredth movie Blade of the Immortal in 2017. A true original, Miike remains one of the most exciting directors around.

 
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