Wow – Shocktober’s been running for a fair few years now. First on MySpace (anybody still remember MySpace?) and now here on my own site since I opened it on Halloween 2010. I’ve been tinkering and tweaking with it to try and make it interactive and fun. I think I’m just about at the formula that works with the 13 Scares of Halloween format.
But this year, I tried tweaking the 13 Scares element a little bit by throwing out an offer on the site’s Facebook page for you, the readers, to make some suggestions that I could add to the super secret list of films to be covered.
The responses were cool and plentiful, although in a true facepalm moment that I was getting way more suggestions than the thirteen spaces I had available. (Never mind, this yearly festival will carry on until someone prises my cold, dead fingers from my keyboard so we’ve plenty of time. If your suggestion didn’t make it this year, there’s always next.)
One of the suggestions that caught my imagination was One Missed Call. But not the American version, oh no – the Japanese original. (And thank you screen name Dirk Lerxt Pratt for nudging me toward a film that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise).
So a horror film from another culture where the values are radically different from what I’m used to.
Well allrighty then. I’ve enjoyed the entire output of Japanese produced Godzilla films so seeing that magnificent TOHO Productions logo on the screen immediately made me feel in a comfort zone. But as the film’s plot unfolded, it seemed a little confusing in parts – which may or may not have been due in part to inaccurate captioning. For example, one character seems to keep popping up and the film is over the halfway mark before we the audience even know who he is – though the main character instantly recognises him. There are still some plot threads that remain unresolved, but all in all it’s a deeply satisfying film that is in all probability is far superior to the American remake. (And this is where I have to admit that although I’ve seen the American version, I can’t remember a single detail – and none of what I saw here in the Japanese version triggered any memories. I’m guessing I’ll have to revisit that disc soon.
There’s something un-nerving in films where an integral part of the plot has our machines and gadgets used against us by malign forces. And here, it’s the modern day essential – the mobile phone. We all have one, we all use them.
But what if…..
What if a supernatural entity used the device to herald our untimely death by ringing us on our cell phones and leaving us a message comprised of our last moments before meeting a gruesome end? Or, more accurately, you call yourself from the near future (near as in tomorrow or the day after) and leave yourself a message of your last words or screams. The time of the message is the time you perish. (Damn, I’m getting chills just writing about it.)
So, to the plot.
A college student receives a call on her phone (although it’s not her ringtone it’s an eerie jingle, like the theme music to a preschool TV show ) which goes to voicemail. She and her friend listen to it and it’s a mix of the girl’s own voice, ending in a blood curdling scream and dead silence.
The call came from her own phone, later the NEXT day.
Still – teenagers (sigh). This is forgotten until the next night, they’re on the phone, talking to each other and they suddenly realise it’s the appointed time and events are falling into place. The girl dies, having been pushed on to the electric cables of a train thus the scream. As she dies, she spits out a bright red candy.
In a memorable scene, fingers dial a number on the phone still clutched in her hand – but the arm has been severed.
Her boyfriend reveals he received a call just after she died – same thing, he hears his own death and shortly after plunges to his doom down an elevator shaft. As he dies, his body shattered, his broken hand dials the next number. He also spits out a red candy.
The next victim (presumably the number dialled by the last victim – they’re all part of the same social circle) receives the call but tries not to. She discards her phone, but the calls come through on other phones when she’s close to them – and this time there’s a video attached to the message, showing a spectral figure shadowing her. She opts for a live exorcism on TV because this weird case is attracting media attention. The exorcism does no good whatsoever, and she dies with the same candy in her mouth. (how can a movie make red candy so damn sinister?)
She calls the next victim, her friend Yumi.
Enter Detective Yamashita (except he’s been popping up here and there, but we didn’t know who he was) who has been investigating this curse previously, when his sister received the call before dying in a fire.
Now the sister was a social care worker who was looking after two sisters whose mother was suspected of abusing them. One child died of an asthma attack, the mother was last seen in a hospital, and the surviving sister was mute and carried around a doll which constantly plays the dreaded child-like ringtone.
The hospital they were at is closed down, abandoned, but haunted with their ghosts (I think) – but they find the mothers’ body still clutching a cell phone. (This was getting a bit confusing).
Now, I think, but can’t swear to it – that Yumi was also abused as a child.
Somehow, they’re summoned to an orphanage where hidden CCTV proves that the mother never abused the girls, it was the older sister abusing the younger. While the hapless mother took the younger to hospital, the elder suffered an asthma attack and choked to death on a piece of red candy.
I admit, I was losing track at this point and the ending didn’t make much sense to me, but Yumi is being haunted by the abusive sister, the detective has now realised who’s behind the curse and races to Yumi’s aid. But Yumi (presumably possessed) stabs him and he falls into unconsciousness. While out for the count, he dreams that he saves the sister from her fatal asthma attack, and wakes up to find himself in hospital with Yumi watching over him. She slips a red candy from her mouth to his and the camera pulls back to reveal she has a knife behind her back.
And that’s it.
Powerful, disturbing – and complicated as hell when you’re trying to follow on subtitles.
But well worth a view.
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