Fewer scares in fewer places: horror flick has little to answer for

One Missed Call

on January 04, 2008 by John P. McCarthy

Long before learning events depicted in this somnolent movie result from a cellular S.O.S. that goes unanswered, you’ll rue the inciting failure to pick up. Drastically under-produced, One Missed Call is so tedious that Alexander Graham Bell—if he traveled through time and wound up inside a multiplex—would have difficulty staying awake. Those vigilant Verizon Wireless techies from the commercials would be fired for napping on the job.

Derived from a Japanese novel, this flat ghost story doesn’t even rise to the level where it could be considered an insult to the worthy tradition of American-made thrillers with a telephonic premise or to great Japanese flicks like The Ring that are synced to eerily supernatural electronic devices.

Evidently, the dialogue was tapped out on a PDA without any human interference whatsoever; and while there’s a mystery that needs solving, no desire to see it solved is instilled in the audience. The psychological terror registers faintly and only a handful of basic frights are dialed up. Compensatory pleasures are non-existent—there’s no sex, gore, humor or special effects to speak of. A mother burning her daughter with a cigarette is as twisted as things get, and we don’t actually see that happen.

Without putting anything on the line—without even a costume change—Ed Burns plays police detective Jack Andrews, whose sister is the first victim of a homicidal mobile phone phenomenon. Victims receive a voicemail message in their own voice and dated a few hours or days hence. They immediately start hallucinating, seeing centipedes and zombies in hoodies all around them. When they expire a short time later, they have what appears to be a large red marble in their gullets. This clue, along with the lullaby-like ring tone downloaded onto their phone (don’t bother removing the batteries, it’s a case of spiritual possession), is linked to a fire that destroyed the nursery ward of St. Luke’s hospital, where Shannyn Sossamon’s heroine Beth Raymond is studying psychology. Beth gets looped in because her pals are felled one by one, she’s a survivor of child abuse and because Burns’ character needs a damsel to protect. Comic Margaret Cho has a few moments of screen time as his skeptical fellow detective.

The best that can possibly come from One Missed Call are that Burns has more cash to finance his next heartfelt indie about modern relationships and Cho has more material for her next stand-up routine.

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Shannyn Sossamon, Ed Burns, Ana Claudia Talancon, Ray Wise, Azura Skye, Margaret Cho, Johnny Lewis, Meagan Good and Jason Beghe
Director: Eric Valette
Screenwriter: Andrew Klavan
Producers: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Scott Kroopf, Jennie Lew Tugent and Lauren C. Weissman
Genre: Horror
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 87 min.
Release date: January 4, 2008

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