One Missed Call Trilogy (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Arrow Video) Running Time: 322 minutes approx.
First, there was the killer video tape. Then the killer computer, and now the killer mobile phone! You have to hand it to the Japanese when they like an idea they milk it for all it is worth (Hollywood isn’t too shabby at this either).
Yoko Okazaki (Anna Nagata) misses a call on her mobile phone, but doesn’t recognise ring tone. The voicemail message is listed as coming from her own phone, and is dated two days in the future featuring her own voice followed by a scream. Two nights later, as Yoko is walking home and talking on the phone to her friend Yumi Nakamura (Ko Shibasaki), she is suddenly thrust over a bridge and into the path of on oncoming train.
The police think it is suicide, but rumours of other people receiving a creepy voicemail from themselves before mysteriously dying and found with a red gobstopper in their mouths, persuades Yumi to investigate this further, enlisting the help of detective Hiroshi Yamashita (Shinichi Tsutsumi) whose younger sister was also a victim.
Based on the novel Chakushin Ari by Yasushi Akimoto, 2003’s One Missed Call is directed by Takashi Miike. Noted for his outlandish, rule breaking take on cinema, this veritable check list of J-Horror tropes and clichés is Miike at his most restrained and conventional. That doesn’t make it a bad film but anyone expecting something more outrageous might be disappointed.
It does however, show Miike can toe the line when he has to, which at least helps make this an easy watch even if nothing about the central concept and the plot beats doesn’t stray too far from the genre template. To clarify, yes, there is an embittered female spirit killing off people via their phones and the origin of her grisly vengeance is rooted in uncomfortable reality.
Logic wise, the story tends to trip over itself but does offer a few last minute twists to confound us when it looks like everything has been put to bed, which does reek of Miike in that regard. The ring tone became a cult thing in Japan and the film got a US remake in 2008 but we won’t dwell on that.
Renpei Tsukamoto helms the imaginatively titled 2005 sequel One Missed Call 2. The curse returns after a year when a Chinese restaurant owner takes a call meant for his daughter, who then shares her phone number with friends, Kyoko Okudera (Mimula) and Madoka Uchiyama (Chisun), the latter the next person to receive the deadly message.
Kyoko finds Madoka dead at home, except there is no red gobstopper but coal dust in her body instead. Journalist Takako Nozoe (Asaka Seto) has been following the case, and alongside Kyoko and her Naoto (Yū Yoshizawa), they journey to Taiwan where this strain of the course appears to have originated.
This sequel is very much its own film, bordering on a reboot with the cast from the first one only appearing via flashback, the lone exception being Detective Motomiya (Renji Ishibashi) and even his role is minimal. The ties story wise to the original tend to feel a little forced in the absence of the characters, so they made the wise choice to focus on the current investigation instead.
Even moving the story to Taiwan, the spectre of the first antagonist looms heavy over the proceedings by way of facilitating the addition of their Taiwanese counterpart to the oeuvre. Not as creepy or horrific as Miike’s film, this sequel does have its moments, the true horror found in the persecution of the person who became the vengeful aberration.
Finally, we have the trilogy conclusion One Missed Call: Final from 2006 and directed this time by Manabu Asou. The action is relocated to Busan, South Korea where a class of high school kids are on a trip, except for Asuka Matsuda (Maki Horikita), the victim of bullying like another girl, Pam, who hung herself, whose phone carries the now familiar ringtone with a new message “Forward this message and you will not die”.
Watching through her computer, Asuka chooses from a class photo which one of her tormentors to send the message to and gleefully watches them die, until they realise the game and paranoia sees them turn against each other to stay alive. Can Asuka’s friend Emiri (Meisa Kuroki) be the one to stop Asuka and break the curse?
Coming across as a combination of Death Note, Battle Royale, and Final Destination, this closing chapter of the trilogy is riddled with plot holes and logic defying happenings, yet is for me, the most entertaining of the three films. Miike’s might be better but this one at least puts a new spin on the concept, and the victims for the most part actually deserve their fate.
As a polemic about the institutionalised bullying in Japanese schools, it is a great way of driving the message home about how harmful it is to the victim and the consequences for the perpetrators. Plus, you have to admire the fact they got around the Korean-Japanese language barrier by having the lone Korean Jang Keun-suk play a deaf boy who communicates via sign language!
I can imagine watching these films as they were released would have a different effect on audience reception to them at the time, whilst seeing them in binge from courtesy of this generously packed set from Arrow, allows for a more considered reflection on the merits, structure, and cohesion of the trilogy. It also makes it easier to appreciate the franchise when viewed as a whole, rather than as a piecemeal series.
The One Missed Call trilogy might not have the same gravitas and legacy as Ringu but for what it achieves as a whole in the shadow of its mighty predecessor, it actually over delivers. The best compliment I can pay it is the ringtone can sit alongside the Jaws theme as a musical motif to engender dread in the audience!
Is that your phone ringing?
Lossless Japanese Language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Japanese Language PCM 2.0
Audio Commentary by Tom Mes
The Making of One Missed Call
Cast & Crew Interviews
Interview with Takashi Miike
Live Or Die TV special
A Day With The Mizunuma Family
The Making Of One Missed Call 2
Gomu – Short film by One Missed Call 2 director Renpei Tsukamoto
One Missed Call 2 Deleted Scenes
One Missed Call 2 Music Video
One Missed Call 2 Theatrical Trailer, Teaser Trailers, and TV spots
The Making Of One Missed Call: Final
Maki and Meisa – Behind The Scenes Featurette with Maki Horikita and Meisa Kuroki
Behind The Scenes with Keun-Suk Jang
The Love Story – Short film tie-in for One Missed Call: Final
One Missed Call: Final Theatrical Trailer
First Pressing only: Illustrated Collector’s Booklet
Rating – ****
Man In Black