Monday, July 31, 2023

I Know Who Called Me


Have we reached that point of time where 2008 feels retro? Back when all we could really do with a cell phone was play Snake or hold it above our heads to find bars, there was a predictable onslaught of mobile-themed horror movies. Today's film is occasionally considered the worst of them. 

Naturally, I was eager to watch it.  

Quick Plot: St. Luke's Hospital is in flames, but young Laurel and her teddy bear make it out okay. Put a pin in that, as we now move to college student Shelley stressing out as something spooky occurs at her elaborate koi pond. Her cat disappears, her phone rings, her cat reappears, and a Carrie-ish hand drags her down to sleep with the fishes.

And her cat.

Shelley's best friend Lean is understandably bummed. Visiting pal Beth's post-funeral party doesn't help, especially when they discover an eerie voicemail dated in the future. Could this be connected to Shelley's mysterious post-call death?

Obviously, yes: there's some form of ghost hunting coeds via their mobile lines, and it won't stop until it Final Destinations its way through the whole graduating class.

Beth teams up with hunky sad cop Jack, whose own sister fell victim to the cell phone serial killer right before Shelley. Together, they follow the Law & Order: SVU trail through to discover things that answer some, but far from all of their questions. 

One Missed Call is, like many a studio produced PG-13 horror film of the aughts, a rather bland remake of a Japanese hit (in this case, one I haven't seen). Yes, it's incredibly derivative of The Ring, Pulse, and similar titles, and yes: it's not very good. But when you see that 0% fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating before watching, you can't help but be both disappointed and impressed.

THIS is what the general film critic masses of 2008 thought to be the worst film of the year? THIS?

It has ACTORS. LIGHTING. RAY WISE AND MARGARET CHO (each with two scenes). 

No, that doesn't make this movie GOOD, but it's...fine. Yes, studios made way too many derivative horror remakes in the mid-2000s. The year of One Missed Call's release also coincided with some of the century's best, including original The Children, Let the Right One In, and Lake Mungo. The remake well was drying up, though some of its worst was still to come.

One Missed Call is far from the worst. There are actual characters and occasional tension here. Yes, the dated CGI and predictable plotting probably outweighs the overall skill, but I was never bored or angry. Maybe time has softened the standards I used to have. Fifteen full years have passed, and it's a big enough distance that we can probably be a little more objective. 

I never had a personal affection for this kind of product (which, let's face it, this kind of movie is) but oddly, there's something mildly comforting in watching them today. 

Or maybe I'll just never tire of seeing a messy computerized monster and saying, "so that's what it would look like if Ally McBeal's dancing baby had its own baby with Baby Oospsie Daisy."

High Points
It's a small thing, but I'm fairly certain the end credit font was intended to resemble mobile texting and you know what? I approve

Low Points
The best way to destroy the sense of dread your film has worked hard for is, and continues to be, to introduce roughly rendered CGI at your climax

Lessons Learned
No frat party is complete without a fresh vegetable spread

Checkhov's law of teddy bear closeups reminds us all to pay very close attention to any featured stuffed animal

Between this and her Cassandra arc on Buffy, Azura Skye clearly cornered the marked on self-aware doomed young adults

I can't really tell anyone that their lives would be improved by spending 90 minutes on the American remake of One Missed Call, but it wouldn't be THAT much worse. It's there on HBO Max (or whatever we're calling it now).

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