"The Ring" has a lot to answer for. It was a Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror movie that probably did as much to popularize Hollywood remakes of Japanese horror movies as any film in history. Now, every time the Japanese do a horror flick, Hollywood has to do it all over again. Some of them haven't been bad. Others have been horrid. Stick the 2007 remake "One Missed Call" in the latter category. Maybe the original, 2003's "Chakushin ari," was better, or the original 2005 TV series or the 2005 and 2006 sequels; I don't know. They couldn't have been any worse than this, a problem not even high definition does much to help.
However, I have to begin by at least giving credit to "One Missed Call" for attempting to do a ghost story. After all, good ghost stories are hard to come by these days. Regrettably, "One Missed Call" is nothing like a "good" ghost story. A good ghost story creates its frights through the use of suspense; it fashions a sense of uncertainty and anxiety in the viewer that can make one's hair stand on end. Instead of doing that, "One Missed Call" falls back on the easier standby of trying only to shock the viewer. The movie's ghost kills people one at a time in various horrendous ways, thus working more like a conventional slasher flick than a traditional haunted-house tale. It's unfortunate because it makes "One Missed Call" just another "Friday the 13th" clone rather than a serious contender in the goose-bumps genre. At the risk of making a pun, Hollywood has already done this stuff to death.
Here's the deal: People in the story are dying one at a time in mysterious ways, and all of them are young, attractive college students. Sure, I mean, what's the point of killing old or middle-aged people if the moviemakers have a young audience in mind? People over forty are ready to die, anyway. But I digress, which isn't hard to do when you're talking about this movie. Or watching this movie.
So, young people are dying, all of them in brutal ways: strangled in ponds, falling off bridges onto railway cars, getting iron rods driven through their bodies; you know, the kind of deaths we all take for granted in modern horror flicks. And the victims all have two things in common besides being young and attractive: First, they all received cell-phone messages from themselves dated the exact time of their deaths. No, it doesn't matter what phone they're using; it's the message that counts. Well, we've had haunted videotapes, why not haunted phone messages? The difference is that with the videotape, the goofy premise worked; with the cell-phone business, it doesn't. Part of the problem is that by now such ideas are not only harebrained, they're old hat.
The second thing the victims have in common is that the police find each of them with a large, red, round piece of hard candy in their mouth. So not only is the ghost, or whatever it is, able to effect the victim's death, the entity is also able to place a candy in his or her mouth. Have you ever wondered where ghosts get candy? Is there a special ghost-candy store for such purposes? I don't have one in my city, but maybe I live in a disadvantaged neighborhood. We do have stores that sell spirits, although none that I know of that sell to spirits. But I digress.
Naturally, nobody sees any of these connections except the star of the show, a college student named Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon), several of whose friends succumb to this bizarre series of deaths. She tries to explain her theories to the police, and, of course, they ignore her. They figure all these grotesque fatalities are accidents, and it's only a coincidence that the victims were all enjoying the same kind of hard candy at the time of their demise. Does anybody remember "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," where Costello keeps seeing monsters but nobody else does, so they think he's nuts? More recently, "Hot Fuzz" parodied the same gambit, and both of those movies were comedies. "One Missed Call" might have been comedy, too, for all I know. But I doubt it. And I digress again.
One cop does believe her, though: Detective Jack Andrews (Edward Burns). However, when Andrews mentions it to his fellow cops, they think he's as looney as Beth. Besides, it's unclear if he buys into Beth's story because his own sister was a victim of these mysterious deaths or because he thinks Beth is cute.
Everything goes according to formula in the film, including Beth and Detective Andrews pairing up as a sort of buddy team to investigate the deaths that nobody else thinks are supernatural murders. And they get into the usual dark and spooky places that turn out to be anything but scary.
There's even a sleazy television producer (Ray Wise) thrown in to do a cell-phone exorcism on live TV. I kid you not. I have no idea where that idea came from or why it was in the plot because like so much of this picture, it goes nowhere and we get nothing out of it. And should I mention the inhaler? Nawww.
"One Missed Call" is not the worst horror movie I've ever seen, but it is among the more tedious. Do we ever learn much about the characters or take any interest in them? No. Do we care about what happens to them? No. Is there any part of the story that even comes close to making sense? No. Is there any part of the story that is at all suspenseful or frightening? No. Is there anything new or original about the plot line? No. Is there any reason for this movie to exist? I'm sorry; that was rude. And I'm digressing.
Warner Bros. present the picture in a 1.85:1 ratio, 1080-resolution, VC-1, Blu-ray transfer, the picture characteristics marginally sharper than its standard-definition counterpart. In a direct comparison with the SD image, the differences are not night-and-day, but they are apparent. Still, the high-def video quality is as ordinary for its kind as the standard-def is for its type, so don't expect anything spectacular. The picture remains slightly vague, soft, and fuzzy, even in HD, with the same slight murkiness in the darker sections. There also remains a good deal of visible, if normal, print grain, probably a condition one would have noticed in a movie theater as well.
As though to make up for the disc's lack of extras, Warner Bros. offer up English soundtracks in three separate configurations: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital 2.0. In Dolby TrueHD 5.1, the audio acquits itself quite well. It's a touch clearer and cleaner than the regular DD 5.1 track, especially in the midrange and bass, with the same stereo spread, and maybe a little stronger dynamic impact. More important, to my ears the THD track is smoother overall than the DD 5.1, which alone makes it more worthwhile. The surround information remains effective in both audio formats, although in THD it's easier to discern directionality, and it tends to get better as the movie goes on.
There are no extras to speak of on the disc. You get nineteen scene selections but no chapter insert; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages and subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired. Period.
A reader reminded me that there was at least a glimmer of hope in the movie's first scene. After watching the opening few minutes of "One Missed Call," I, too, thought there was going to be some small chance for the film's success. I figured the movie was either going to be really intense (something like the newest "Dawn of the Dead") or an outright comedy parody (like "Hot Fuzz"). Unfortunately, those first few minutes were the only good minutes in the film.
If there had not already been about 800 Japanese horror-movie remakes in the past few years, "One Missed Call" might have scored higher on the rating meter. As it is, the movie does nothing that we haven't seen before and better. Its haunted cell phone premise is silly, its explanation for the premise is nonsensical, its characters are shallow to the point of nonexistence, and its action is bland in the extreme. One might best describe this would-be thriller as tired, and not even the high-definition processing does much to spice it up. Go watch "The Ring" again; you'll have more fun.