One Missed Call is Eric Valette’s American re-make of J-horror movie of the same name that came out in 2003. The late 90s through the oughts had a series of these same style remakes that were initially commercially successful, but gradually dwindled in quality. To our knowledge this was the last one of that ilk, and concluding that trend comes in as being an impossible to comprehend hot mess. Read through our full review below to find out just how much of a mess it is, just be warned that we will spoil everything about it.
Reviewed by: Mark
The movie opens with the death of a beautiful teeanger, Shelley. Flash forward to her funeral and we meet most of her friends, also beautiful teenagers. One by one they begin to receive eerie voicemails that are dated from the future, and contain the sounds of something happening immediately preceding their deaths. Each time someone dies their phone dials the next person in line. As their numbers dwindle, Beth, played by Shannyn Sossamon tries to trace the calls back to their source. She crosses paths with Detective Jack Andrews, played by Edward Burns, who is investigating the deaths as well because his sister recently passed under similar circumstances.
The pair are able to re-trace the game of telephone back to a mother who died in a hospital fire. Long story short, because there are a lot of convolutions in this thing, the mother had twin girls named Ellie and Laurel. Ellie was a bully and kept hurting her sister enough to send her to the hospital. As her mom took Laurel to the hospital Ellie died of an asthma attack. She attempts to call her mother but dies gasping into the phone, thus starting off the game of murder-telephone.
What the Movie Does Right
We should at least comment on the concept of the movie. Although the plot is a hot mess the core concept of hearing yourself die is an interesting one. The only issue is that since this is a remake I can’t really grant much credit to the screenwriters on this one. In any case, the concept forcing such a high level of focus on flip phones and various Boost Mobile branded things makes this movie an interesting time capsule of dated technology.
Also in this department is a scene late in the movie where Beth finds the burnt corpse of Marie, the mother of the twins. Crawling through an air duct with only a minute or two left before Beth’s own death-mail will kick in she stumbles on the body. It is basically the only significant application of practical effects in the movie and looks pretty good. For a movie that is otherwise chock-full of CG it’s not surprising that the best scene is one that relies heavily on practical.
What the Movie Does Wrong
My last thoughts actually transitioned well into one of the biggest issues this movie has. From the very start it vomits terrible CG all over. A few of the movie’s monsters look okay, like the lady with mouth-eyes, but for the most part they’re atrocious. The climax of the movie has Ellie (played by Ariel Winter) storm into a living room before getting tackled by her angelic mother. The whole scene is soaked in bad effects, and it’s nearly impossible for it to be even the remotest bit effective.
Another major problem with this thing is the consistency of the “monster.” In the first scene Shelley is killed when a hand reaches up and pulls her into her koi pond. The Next girl dies because an unseen force pushes her in front of a train. Victim #3 dies when a construction site explosion impales him with rebar. The fourth one dies being choked by an invisible monster. Finally, the last dude is just straight up stabbed in the eye. There’s absolutely no consistency here. The hand in the first scene definitely doesn’t belong to Ellie so how the fuck does that one work? It’s mind boggling how poorly laid out this movie is.
Which brings me to my final point. The biggest issue with the movie is that it is wildly schizophrenic. There is no connective tissue here. It seems like they wrote a script, fired the entire writing staff, and brought in a new team to re-write the whole thing. Then they repeated that process three or four times. The villain isn’t anything evil, she’s just an asthmatic pre-pubescent bully. The candies that are left to connect the victims are just there because the girl likes candy. The victims are chosen virtually at random. The only reason phones are involved is because Ellie was holding a phone when she died. It’s all just so pointless and random.
Story: 2 - Holy cow. This is baffling. Basically it’s not a 1 because it is based on a previous work that introduced an interesting concept. Beyond that there’s really nothing here that works. The monster’s origin story is underwhelming, the characters aren’t well developed, and the rules of the movie change on a scene-by-scene basis. Terrible story.
World-Building / Immersion: 5.5 - Given the rant(s) I just went on you were probably expecting this to be lower. Understandable. The one thing that I don’t think came through in this post is that there are some decided B-movie level aspects to this thing. If you are willing to get past…. well… everything and just sorta lose yourself in the movie, it actually becomes immersive in a weird way. It’s not unlike watching a train wreck.
Scare-Factor: 3 - The demon people walking around town are a bit unsettling, despite the fact that most of them are buried under an unforgivable amount of CG. The scene in the ducts at the end is also a solid horror scene. That is the extent of the good horror things that are included in this movie.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 2 - This is decidedly not a “judicious lack thereof” movie. I think I’ve belabored the point by now, but the CG in this movie is awful. The practical effects, where they exist, are good. The other big thing here is that the movie’s plot points all rely on the shitty CG, so you can’t even really push them to the background and ignore them. They’re front row center for the whole ride.
Overall: 4.5 - This is getting a bit of a tilt upward because of the B-movie entertainment that this is capable of providing. If you feel like making fun of a movie while getting drunk with your buds this film represents a prime opportunity to do so. I would like to note that this rating would still maintain the 0% this movie is famous for on Rotten Tomatoes so at the very least we’re keeping that tradition alive.