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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


As far as Iím concerned, the trend of remaking Asian horror films began and ended with The Ring. That was one of the creepiest movies I ever saw, but the other Asian-inspired shockers to follow it landed mostly with a thud. The authentic J-horror pictures (as they are called) are undeniably atmospheric and unsettling. The problem is that, in remaking them, Hollywood tries to ďAmericanizeĒ the films, when itís their very foreignness that makes them so unnerving.

So now comes One Missed Call, and you can almost imagine the glee that went through some studio executiveís head: Itís exactly like The Ring except with cell phones instead of videotapes!

Based on Takashi Miikeís Chakushin ari, the film stars Shannyn Sossamon as Beth, a young woman whose friends are systematically killed in gruesome fashion. The victims all have one thing in common: they each received a voice mail message from themselves in the future, right at the moment before death. The evil, unexplained curse that kills them then shuffles through their phone book and calls the next person on the list. Presumably, this is the downside of the Friends & Family Plan.

Edward Burns plays Detective Jack Andrews, the only cop on the force who doesnít think Beth is nuttier than a Snickers bar. His sister also died under bizarre circumstances, and he thinks her death might be connected to the others. Against all proper police procedure, Jack allows Beth to accompany him on his investigation, which leads to that creakiest of J-horror staples: a creepy little girl!

There isnít a whole lot to say about One Missed Call. It is inept in every possible way, and thatís about all you need to know. Whatís startling is that director Eric Valette is completely unable to build any suspense or fright. Horror movies need tension. They need to create a feeling of unease, then consistently tighten the screws. Valette seems clueless about how to do this. Every single scene is staged with the same leaden tone. Yeah, things pop out and there are some ghoulish special effects at the end, but they donít register at all. Instead of sneaking up on you, the ďscaryĒ parts telegraph themselves at a distance and have no impact because the screenplay (credited to Andrew Klavan) is strictly color-by-numbers.

I think horror movies also benefit from having strong casts. Think about it. The Ring had Naomi Watts. Alien had Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, and Ian Holm. The Silence of the Lambs had Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. These are incredibly competent actors who know how to provide a much-needed emotional center. In contrast, One Missed Callís lead performer is the utterly bland Shannyn Sossamon, who tries in vein to provide more than one facial expression here.

Then thereís Edward Burns, who is an interesting guy. A writer/director in his own right, Burns won the top prize at Sundance in 1995 for his low-budget film The Brothers McMullen. Since then, heís taken supporting roles in big movies (Saving Private Ryan, The Holiday, 27 Dresses) and leading roles in crap (A Sound of Thunder, The River King) to help bankroll his indie efforts. On one hand, no less than John Cassavetes did the same thing; on the other hand, itís frustrating to think that Burns is so willing to take bottom-of-the-barrel material. The man who displayed such a sharp, sarcastic wit in his own films had to recognize that One Missed Call was inherently stupid from one end to the other. And if heís trying to give us a self-knowing wink in some scenes, it does nothing to mitigate the fact that heís still in this picture.

One Missed Call is really the latest in a string of tame PG-13 horror movies that seem designed to be part of an adolescent mating ritual more than anything. Itís the kind of picture that 13-year old girls go to see with their 13-year old boyfriends so they can pretend to be scared and the guys can pretend to comfort them. Thereís nothing really scary going on here. (See The Orphanage if itís real fright youíre looking for.) The temptation exists to call the movie one missed opportunity, but honestly, I donít think anyone involved in this mess ever seriously tried to make something good.

( out of four)

DVD Features:

One Missed Call arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 22, 2008 with an HD-DVD combo to follow on May 13. The film is presented in both widescreen and fullscreen formats on the same disc. Picture and sound quality are excellent. There are no bonus features, although the disc does contain some interesting trailers for upcoming releases, including the long-gestating Lost Boys sequel.

One Missed Call is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, frightening images, some sexual material and thematic elements. . The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.

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