One Missed Call Trilogy

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domino harvey
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One Missed Call Trilogy

#1 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:46 pm

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An iconic trilogy of J-horror films comes to Blu-ray for the first time! Tapping into the same brand of terror as the Ring and Grudge movies, visionary director Takashi Miike (Audition, Blade of the Immortal) presents a modern, high-tech twist on that mainstay of Japanese folklore, the yurei or vengeful spirit, in the form of its own iconic antihero – the terrifying Mimiko.

In the first instalment in the trilogy, 2003’s One Missed Call, student Yoko (Anna Nagata, Battle Royale) receives a phone message from her future self, ending with her own death scream. Two days later, she dies in a horrific rail collision. As the mysterious phone curse spreads, claiming more young lives, Yoko’s friend Yumi (Ko Shibasaki, Battle Royale, 47 Ronin) joins forces with detective Hiroshi (Shinichi Tsutsumi, Space Battleship Yamato), whose sister met the same gruesome fate. But can they unravel the mystery before the clock runs out on the next victim – Yumi herself?

Mimiko’s curse continues to wreak bloody havoc in two sequels – 2005’s One Missed Call 2 and 2006’s One Missed Call: Final, in addition to spawning a TV series and an American remake. This lavish collection from Arrow Video gathers together the original trilogy – with the third instalment making its UK debut – and a swathe of in-depth bonus features for the ultimate spine-tingling experience.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentations
• Lossless Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 soundtracks
• Optional English subtitles
• New audio commentary on One Missed Call by Miike biographer Tom Mes
• The Making of One Missed Call, an hour-long archival documentary on the film’s production
• Archival interviews on One Missed Call with actors Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi and Kazue Fukiishi, and director Takashi Miike
• Archival interview on One Missed Call with director Takashi Miike
• Archival footage from the One Missed Call premiere
• Live or Die TV special
• A Day with the Mizunuma Family
• One Missed Call alternate ending
• The Making of One Missed Call 2, a half-hour archival documentary on the film’s production
• Gomu, a short film by One Missed Call 2 director Renpei Tsukamoto
• One Missed Call 2 deleted scenes
• One Missed Call 2 music video
• The Making of One Missed Call: Final, an hour-long archival documentary on the film’s production
• Maki and Meisa, an archival behind-the-scenes featurette on One Missed Call: Final with actresses Maki Horikita and Meisa Kuroki
• Behind the Scenes with Keun-Suk Jang, an archival featurette with One Missed Call: Final’s South Korean star
• The Love Story, a short film tie-in for One Missed Call: Final
• Candid Mimiko, an archival location tour with the series’ iconic villain
• Theatrical trailers and TV spots
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Anton Bitel

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Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#2 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:38 pm

I have recently rewatched the first One Missed Call film (I have not seen the two sequels as yet) and feel a lot more positive towards it than I did on first seeing it a decade or so ago. I don't think its a film I would recommend as an entry point for newcomers to the 'J-horror' genre, as it sort of relies on an audience's familiarity with the way certain previous films were structured for its impact. For example I really love the scene of our protagonists going to a funeral and getting the backstory of earlier victims explained to them by a group of schoolgirls that is pretty blatantly riffing off a very similar scene in Ring. Though the One Missed Call version multiplies the characters in that scene, and has some characters speaking on behalf of, or in place of, others who are more reticent in speaking up. Similarly we get a couple of investigators who follow the path of investigating the ghost curse similar to those in Ring.

In fact it is kind of impressive just how much Miike mines the entire J-horror trend for material and imagery in his entry, making it a megamix of genre tropes. I would perhaps not argue too vehemently with someone using the term 'rips off' instead of 'homaging' the subgenre, but I really felt that I got a lot more out of it having seen other titles now. I mean what other film has the audacity in its final moments to
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copy the structure of the final act of Ring (in the way that we have solved the horror by cuddling a wet corpse whose skin sloughs away, but oops that has not stopped anything!), using imagery from The Grudge (kids peering out of cupboards, and ghostly hands and hair surrounding those marked for death), before taking the key image from Pulse of the blurred ghost implacably walking towards camera, to lead into an astonishing coda that works best if you think of it in terms of the final torture scene from Audition!
It is an enormous repurposing of imagery from other sources and blending of it all together into something different. In this case (like that South Korean film Phone) the big theme that kind of appears out of nowhere to blindside the audience is the really heavy one of child abuse and torture within a family, which although aspects of such are present from the very beginning of the film in flashes is a really big tonal shift to accommodate from the more spooktacular, set piece based fun of the first two-thirds of the film of a cursed mobile phone sending voice messages from two days in the future that tell you how you will spend your last moments and then on that person dying calling the next person in their phone book! I think perhaps that tonal shift makes it a difficult film to entirely get behind, and in a way it is another example of the film picking up on aspects from other Japanese horror films, as it has a very similar 'issue' to the way that the VHS tapes in Ring are the most evocative and novel visual elements but eventually get dropped for an investigation into the curse's back story (at least until they make their reappearance in the final moments as having been the true key to the curse all along). Similarly here the mobile phone is the evocative technological hook for the horror that then falls away after its purpose of 'transmitting the infection' has been accomplished.

I remember that was what disappointed me about One Missed Call on the initial viewing as I was more infatuated by the idea of the medium than the message (and understandably so I think, because the horror of a cursed mobile phone is the key image and idea used to sell the film), whereas on revisiting it I was now more prepared for the 'message' to take primacy in the later stages (I guess that I am still waiting for the Marshall McLuhan-style "the medium is the message" techno-horror film to match Videodrome! Although maybe that is Pulse?) However if you are prepared for the film to change tones quite severely once the curse has worked its way through her friends to reach the main character then it is still pretty interesting.
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Really the implication appears to be that the only person able to properly face off against the ghost of a mother who abused her children is the heroine who herself was abused in childhood also, so that the encounter becomes strangely cathartic for both of them! The slightly worrying over simplistic approach to the subject (though an amusing one, suggesting that the ghost has met its match by accident more than design!) being something which then gets wonderfully upended by the final twist that it was actually the older sister who was abusing the younger one whilst the mother covered up for her, until she just left the older sister to die of an asthma attack after a particularly bad encounter. So our main character gets the catharsis of having overcome her traumatic childhood experiences by proxy and putting the vengeful spirit of 'mother' to rest in both general and more specific terms, but also then unfortunately gets targeted by and gets possessed by the spirit of the older sister and from that point seems destined to get involved in a sadistic Audition-style relationship with our male lead of constantly stabbing or torturing him, then caring for his wounds and offering him sweets to ease the pain before beginning the cycle all over again, much as the older sister did with her younger one! The ambivalent response of our male lead to that situation perhaps only adds to the frisson of the coda.

There is also that interesting suggestion that Yumi herself might have been the dangerous element in the centre of the film almost in spite of herself, from the way that she is rather withdrawn from her friends at the beginning to the way that she is the only person able to 'understand' the ghost of the mother at the end, and forgive her. Not to mention the final merging with the older sister perhaps 'self actualising' her in the most disturbing of ways! Truly "abuse does breed more abuse" (as mentioned in the early lecture scene) in this film in the most horribly literal manner, even when the person who was abused had at first seemed to have escaped the cycle.
So it is an interesting film, and kind of one which calls time on the whole Japanese horror cycle in some ways. Or at least it makes for the perfect ending point of the 'pure' Japanese horror cycle, as it was around this time that other horror films from different parts of Asia (The Eye from Hong Kong/Singapore; Shutter from Thailand; Phone from South Korea; the Hong Kong/Japan/South Korean co-production Three Extremes anthology films) start taking up the mantle often with a much more pronounced moral/religious/cultural deep dive element to them (or at least one which does not treat the priest as a bit of a pompous and phony TV expert figure used for laughs as he is in the televised exorcism scene in One Missed Call!) that sort of underlines that cultural shift from the more modern and Western-influenced, perhaps overly technologically influenced, Japanese setting. I assume from seeing that the One Missed Call sequels start doing the same thing (One Missed Call 2 apparently goes to Taiwan at some point; and One Missed Call: Final takes a trip to Korea) that it might be illustrating that trend within its own series to a certain extent.

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Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#3 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Mar 28, 2020 11:00 am

Revisiting the first One Missed Call film again on this new edition only a few months after the last viewing, I am getting more and more fascinated by the strange approach to editing going on throughout it. All of those flashes of traumatic memories that Yumi has from the very first moments of the film, which slowly develop over time into her big childhood 'peephole phobia explanation' flashback make a lot of sense as a standard filmmaking technique, but I am particularly interested by something like the image of the girl frozen under the ice when Yumi is told by her friend Yoko that she has just come from this girl's funeral. Yumi never knew this girl and the brief flashes of the image of the frozen figure take place whilst the camera is on Yumi as she is hearing about it, so it suggests that this is less a subjective image of that girl's accident and more perhaps Yumi's fantastical image conjured up in the mind's eye after hearing about the accident.

That perhaps gets at the unorthodox way that this relatively standard story is being handled. We kind of come into this situation pretty much in the middle of events, or rather at the start of a supporting cast sub-chapter of the story as we get Yumi and her circle of friends as the focus of the first half of the film, as they pass the 'infection' within their small group chain letter-style (in a weird way the 1998 Ring film starts only after a similar circle of teen friends have all been simultaneously bumped off at the exact same date and time, and we end up spending more time with 30-something investigating characters there!). But there have already been victims before this with Yoko's drowned friend and eventually we get the introduction of the older Hiroshi, doggedly investigating the death of his sister (with visions of the sister also appearing in 'spirit guide' moments that almost feel as if the film is referencing the style of the visions of Father Karras's dead mother in The Exorcist). So while it appears to be a teen centred horror film in many ways (and arguably still is, but it is just as much acting as a maketable lure to unwary audiences!), that central 'knockabout fun', mobile phone-centric part of One Missed Call is bookended by the much darker and more complex experiences of traumatised adult figures. The brother and his therapist sister (and unfortunately her contact book!) who appears to have been the first point of contact for the vengeful sprit(s) of the family she was investigated; and then the revelations about the abuse going on within the central family at the end of the film.

Yumi herself threatens to overbalance the 'light, teen horror' section of the film too with her own childhood abuse experiences that keep flashing up, but of course that stands her in better stead to face things when she finally becomes the target of the curse. In a way it becomes a battle of which childhood abuse traumatic flashback is going to win out over the other! Unfortunately Yumi's, whilst horrible, is not quite as nasty as the one involving the Mizunuma family, because of the extra twists to the story that we went into in the previous post!

In many ways the strangely intrusive quick flashback, memory or 'mind's eye' moments that characters have (mostly Yumi but a number of the other characters do as well, especially Hiroshi. Yoko gets to discuss her friend's death whilst getting changed in that toilet cubicle. In a way the exception that proves the rule is Natsumi who is the person who instead gets a traumatic flash forward in the form of the image of her at her final moments through the phone) are the key to understanding the approach of the film. This is a film that is hiding away revelations and explanations for behaviour in plain sight, as inexplicable flashes of memories that people either don't want to confront directly but resurface or cannot forget no matter how hard they try. Or both! And that itself I think makes for an interesting contrast (whether intentional or not) to the abundance of CGI on display in the death scenes and the long slow head on confrontation of substitute mother and surrogate daughter at the climax. Those are the horror moments that we expect from it as a teen centred 'J-horror' film but, as gory and scary as they are, they're not really where the truly disturbing horror of the story lies. Inevitably there has to be more to it than that.

EDIT: I also love that moment after the death of her second friend that Yumi is being disbelieved about the curse by the police in an interrogation room with a large open window which shows in the background a lady struggling to put her washing out on her balcony against a stiff breeze! Which kind of subliminally sets us up for the 'harried mother' element of the backstory to come!

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Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#4 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Mar 31, 2020 4:25 am

Since the last post I have been thinking that the unifying theme of the film is probably how it handles the passing of time. We have not one but two past childhood traumas impacting on the present (arguably three with Hiroshi's flashbacks to his sister becoming the first victim of the curse outside of the family) that contrast with the trauma coming in the opposite direction of the premonitions of death delivered through electronic media. Similarly we get two hospitals in the old, abandoned and decaying one against the current hospital for the living since they have moved locations over the years.

The death scenes themselves involve a kind of conjunction of timed events to cause a person's demise, though the way we see the first two deaths they are never remotely plausible as 'accidents' despite having the hallmarks of such: Yoko being thrown in front of a (presumably timetabled and running on time!) train; Kenji 'falling' into an empty lift shaft only for the lift full of passengers to arrive a moment later (that also has my favourite moment of CGI in the whole film with the subtle red glow coming from the dark shaft of the tunnel, at first on the side of the lift doors and then coming from the bottom of the shaft in the next shot). Even the televised exorcism (where the ghost drops all pretence of being 'subtle', if they ever had any!) is full of time being 'managed' in the control room, and frittered away frivolously by the presenters and panel of experts, until Natsumi gets the scenery and herself into proper position to meet up with her pre-timed end.

In a way the scariest thing about the deaths are not the actual murders but the moments of the future premonitionary message suddenly syncing up with the present, creating that sense for the character that they are colliding and having a final reckoning with events that they have already witnessed. That perhaps ties together the past childhood trauma and future premonitions of trauma to come together the most for all the characters. I guess the past childhood trauma is the 'message' that then has to inevitably be finally reckoned with itself at the end of the film. And then past and future come together embodied in the 'new Yumi' at the end (and Hiroshi has his own reckoning), in the pure white hospital scene that seems as if it now exists outside of any sort of time at all.

That also lets me praise my favourite shot from early on in the film, of the hands of the clock in Yumi's apartment ticking away then stopping for a long pause as if time itself has supernaturally halted, before the clock hands start moving again, as the by now scarily familiar ringtone begins...

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Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#5 Post by zedz » Thu Apr 09, 2020 1:54 am

I remembered the first film mostly as a transparent crib from The Ring, and it certainly is that, but the crucial difference is that Miike is arguably a better director than Nakata, and he not only delivers on all the genre requirements, but adds his own original twists, such as the curse becoming a media circus, because of course it would. He’s also unafraid to go hard and go weird at the end.

The first sequel attempts to extend the mythology in a murky and not entirely convincing way (possibly to secure Taiwanese co-financing, which isn’t exactly a compelling plot reason!), and plays the unforgivably cheap trick of involving the main character from the previous film in the plot off-screen.

The second and final sequel is a lot more promising, with the solid premise of a bullied schoolgirl, now in a coma after a suicide attempt, exacting revenge on her tormenters while they’re on a school trip to South Korea (hello, beloved co-financer!) Unfortunately, there’s a fundamental problem in the set-up in that the entire class of a couple of dozen pupils were to blame, and there’s no way the film can work through that many novel kills in a regular runtime, so there’s no satisfying payoff to the premise. The film has some fun with the discovery that you can forward the death-threat text message to another victim within the class, but that also runs out of steam as the plot becomes twistier and more arbitrary. In the end [spoiler – but this makes no more sense whether you’ve watched the film or not] Mimiko is spammed to death. Or is she?

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Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#6 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Apr 09, 2020 12:45 pm

I would not have known this otherwise but there is a great section in the Tom Mes commentary where he talks about the difference between Buddhist and Shinto priests, with one dealing more with matters of life and the other matters of death. Mes suggests that there might have been another wry joke at play in the televised exorcism scene in the first film in that the 'wrong type' of priest got called in to do the ceremony! Maybe that priest just played better for the television cameras!

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Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#7 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Apr 26, 2020 6:50 am

Major spoilers:

I really, really liked One Missed Call 2, which I had not expected at all. I think I may like it more than the first film in many ways! After the first One Missed Call seeming to be Takashi Miike's riff on a whole host of "J-horror" tropes smashed together into one big mega-mix, One Missed Call 2 feels like it is much more blatantly paying homage to the Ring trilogy than anything else. After the first thirty minutes or so breezily does a remake of One Missed Call in minature form (including a new group of friends unwisely sharing their contact details with each other and a twisting death to match the celebrated televised one from previously. The new wrinkle to the curse here is that apparently if you pick up the 'one missed call' message before the intended victim that you can now divert their horrible fate onto yourself instead, which comes back into play beautifully at the very end of the film at the romantically tragic sacrificial ending), and we get to the 'final girl' of Kyoko being given the image of her final moments from three days in the future we then suddenly dive into the, surprisingly satisfying, jumble of elements from the Ring series as the story turns into an investigation into the ghostly backstory that extends even further than the 'abuse within a single parent family drama' of Mimiko Mizunuma into something much wider.

Whilst I can understand the disappointment of the fates of the two main young people of the first film only being briefly mentioned in passing as having disappeared without trace, I really like that the sequel does not try to ignore the events of One Missed Call altogether (the main throughline is Renji Ishibashi's Police Inspector character now turned from being an observer from the sidelines about the whole situation into a 'true believer' searching crime scenes that are not his, being chased away from searching corpse's mouths for 'calling card' red candies in the same fashion that he did to our hero in the first film!) but instead tries to both respect its legacy (I really like that it does not shy away from acknowledging that all of our main cast of new characters are obviously aware of that girl who got supernaturally twisted to death on live television last year, aside from the boyfriend hero character who was 'working abroad' at the time!) whilst wanting to do its own thing. This film isn't just throwing what came before away despite featuring a whole new central young couple to face the threat. In a way that interchangeability of our 'heroic' identification figures turns out to be a big theme, as it is the same approach the ghost has towards them too!
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The most upsetting thing about the film is that it makes the supposed main ghostly antagonist of the first film, Mimiko Mizunuma, into just another victim of a longer term curse, rather than being the 'patient zero' of it, which is something that feels that it is neatly playing into the cycle of abuse continuing onward unabated (and people almost willingly stepping into inhabiting abuser/victim roles) in the stinger climax to Miike's film. We are now explicitly dealing with a 'body hopping' ghost with Mimiko not being the source of this but there was an abused girl even before her called Li Li who lived in a small mining town in Taiwan, appeared to be psychic and got punished by the entire town for her 'crimes'. Mimiko's grandfather working in the town appears to have been the way that Li Li got through him to her and then, possessing her abused the little sister until Mimiko herself died and we got into the mobile phone transmission amongst the teens, until Li Lil settled down into possessing Yumi at the end of the first film! So in this sequel the events of the first film have been recontextualised into being the 'middle section' of a much wider storyline that extends both before (with the introduction of Li Li) and after (with our new cast of characters/victims) the events we previously saw. So whilst Yumi (and Renji Ishihashi's Police Inspector) both get unceremoniously bumped off through voiceover dialogue reporting they died offscreen near the end of the film, I did not feel as cheated by that as I may have felt otherwise, as I was more than wrapped up in the events of the sequel by then!

Li Li is kind of the obviously Sadako-styled figure of this narrative, as a wronged psychic child, though there is a suggestion that she was just able to 'predict' the poisoning deaths of the children bullying her by being more perceptive to the environment rather than actually causing them, at least until she was blamed for the deaths and sacrificed to stop it happening, which is probably what really caused her psychic anger to get built up! When you cannot give voice to your thoughts, in this case by having one's lips literally sewn closed, then the bottled up emotions have to be unleashed in other ways, I suppose! I really liked that this takes the 'abuse occurring within a family unit' aspect of the first film and expands it to 'abuse taking place with the consent of an entire town' in this one. Weirdly that also makes it feel very similar to the backstory of the Silent Hill film that came out the same year as this did!
The main comparisons to the Ring series come in the introduction of a reporter character Takako, who is motivated by some sublimated aspect of past trauma above and beyond her simple reporter's instincts (similar to the driven reporter in Ring 0: Birthday, though nowhere near as malicious in action! At least until the end!) into investigating the string of murders. The film structurally moves into its 'investigative' section at this point as whilst the young couple quiver away self isolating in Kyoko's bedroom back in Japan (though it turns out that you cannot self isolate from ghosts!) Takako takes a trip to Taiwan to search out Mimiko's grandfather and find out through that about this mining town. This is kind of the equivalent of 'the trip from the mainland to the island' that occurs at different points in all three of the first three Ring films, and Takako herself is pretty much as big a protagonist of the film as Kyoko is in this section, sharing the duties of the lead role. Especially when it turns out that Takako is separated (but not divorced) from a partner who lives in Taiwan who himself is investigating the curse, which is a kind of replay of the central relationship between Reiko and Ryuji in Ring! Only One Missed Call 2 takes the tragic end of that tentative rekindling of affections between a couple brought back together in dire circumstances to its ultimate, horrible conclusion!

I love that it feels like the 'One Missed Call' universe clashes against the 'Ring' universe in this film, most apparent in the fate of the two subplots and two leading ladies! We in effect get two climaxes here: the One Missed Call ending feels appropriate to its predecessor and delivers all the thrills one would expect (and the moral lesson to never wall a psychic child up alive in a coal mine and then build a giant mobile phone trasmitter on top of it! In effect mobile phone mast radiation is killing people in this film! Or at least spreading a curse wider than it otherwise would have!) as well as a wonderfully romantically tragic climax calling back to that first death where the two lovers swap fates at the last possible moment. I especially liked the way that the film picks up on that brief moment of hero and heroine trapped and isolated from each other on either side of a supernaturally locked door from the first film and elevates it by making the equivalent barrier here into the entire focal point of how the climax plays out.

And then the 'Ring climax' has the reporter meet the most ironic fate of all. This is where the film also gets structurally fascinating too, as Takako herself gets possessed and for the last half hour is playing out events in an 'alternate universe' (which makes the weird jump of abandoning the kids in the mine to rush back to her estranged husband make sense in retrospect) until the final stinger scene where the truth of just what she was doing being puppeted around (post-mortem!) for those last few scenes gets revealed (I love that after all the stuff about coal dust in stomachs of the initial victims that Takako is only afforded the red candy of the 'possessed and/or victim' characters instead, as if to put her in her place as just yet another possessed victim whose anger was being fed on, on the level of Mimiko or Yumi!). And really there is nothing to do at the end but give a wry smile at the irony of it, as well as showing how Li Li as the uber-antagonist really likes taking malicious pleasure in screwing with people in the nastiest, most personalised of ways!

I think this entry is so good (writing about it just makes me think more highly of it!) that I really want to check out more of Renpei Tsukamoto's directorial work now, although from looking on imdb it appears that he has mostly moved into television in recent years, so that may end up being difficult to do. But Bento Harassment looks interesting!

Oh, also One Missed Call 2 fixes one of the only issues I had with the first film, which is that the main characters in One Missed Call were not that great at expressing their fears, more with wan wailing than outright terror! In One Missed Call 2 all of our main actors are great screamers and get the opportunity to do so at various key points of the film. Even our male hero(es) let out some excellent shrieks!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Apr 28, 2020 3:18 am, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#8 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Apr 26, 2020 7:27 am

Here's a bit of amusing trivia from imdb that I otherwise would never have known. The writer of the original novels of One Missed Call and One Missed Call 2, Yasushi Akimoto, is amongst many other things also a music producer, including for the girl band AKB48. He also wrote the lyrics for their song Sugar Rush, used in the soundtrack of Wreck-It-Ralph!

(He was also due to be in charge of producing the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics this year)

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Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#9 Post by colinr0380 » Sun May 10, 2020 5:24 am

"All my friends are such chickens"

Major spoilers:

Almost literally with the coughing up feathers scene! But more so in the sense that they all run around like headless ones in the face of the curse. One Missed Call: Final is arguably not that great as the final film of an ongoing trilogy, as really the main story was successfully and satisfyingly concluded back in One Missed Call 2. This feels a more like a tangential side story with Mimiko as an enabler (anything involving Li Li has been dropped at this point and we are back to Mimiko as the 'face' of the series), and really it is nothing that much to do with its lore and much more of a slasher film. In a strange way with the class trip cruise ship opening and a group of teens being picked off it felt a lot like Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan in its early stages! (Only instead of being given 'the fountain pen that Stephen King wrote all of his novels with' as a parting gift by the kindly teacher, instead here the teachers are handing out mobile phones by the sackful to their students so that they can 'document' their trip! So in a strange way it could be argued that the teachers are the ones responsible for killing off their class of annoyingly shallow bullies and thug-wannabes! And also very like Friday VIII (and Friday VII for that matter) there is also that wonderfully blackly comic scene of the less sympathetic (literally heartless!) male teacher trying to use the sympathetic female one as a human shield at one point, with little success! Imagine having to be trapped in the lift with someone about to get their much deserved comeuppance!). The Friday the 13th series is sort of how One Missed Call: Final acts as a sequel too, fundamentally detached character-wise from its previous films (Mimiko is the only carried over element here, and even then just barely acknowledged only as much as needed) but riffing on the phone curse to have its own standalone story.

Yet whilst I don't feel that it provides a 'grand narrative climax' to the series, it works perfectly fine as a side story and most satisfyingly it does actually provide a sense of closure for that key idea behind the previous films. In the first two films we get rather downbeat endings of our main characters having their past abuse or guilt for their part in their sister's kidnapping, and residual anger left behind by that, make them susceptible to Mimiko being able to possess them and work her vengeance using them as a puppet. Here we get someone (Asuka) who has been bullied taking out her vengeance on the entire class of students who bullied her (which gets a bit complicated by her at first doing it on behalf of a dead friend, who is really a phantom conjured up by Mimiko to control her), seemingly left back at home whilst everyone else is out on their Korean school trip. But instead of being irredeemable, this final film is trying to actually save the possessed person from Mimiko's grip by trying to placate their murderous anger that Mimiko is feeding off of.

I especially like that the backstory is fully tied in with the curse itself this time around, as Asuka herself had originally had the bullying 'forwarded on' to her by our ostensible heroine Emiri (or Emily!) and that is probably why the curse phone message can be passed across but only the once, as it ruins the life of the recipient on top of destroying their previous relationship! The final climax(es) have everyone else drop away and it becomes a series of one-on-one scenes of trying to atone for one's actions, or at least accepting responsibility for the part one played in creating a monster rather than just blaming it all on an outside force 'forcing' you to act in such a way.

That reflects back on the early section of the film as well, as we get students who barely liked each other start immediately turning on each other once the phone starts ringing, all hoping that they can bargain to be spared their fate whilst the antagonist is orchestrating things back at home through her computer screen and has no plans to leave anyone alive at all, at least until Emiri belatedly intervenes to nip things in the bud. The biggest new element that this film brings to the series is simply just sheer weight of numbers in terms of the victims being an entire class of students and their two teachers. There must be around fifteen to twenty potential victims here and that lends a sense of amusing mass panic to a lot of the scenes.

I especially like the paired scenes of exactly the same panicked tussling going on in the smaller four person sub-groups of both the 'girls room' and the 'boys room', which even intentionally appears to be the exact same location in that bland, anonymous hotel room manner! And then the scene of the male teacher wrestling his female students onto the bed, purely in order to grab their mobile phones back from them you understand (saying "It's for your own good. It's gadgets like this that make kids like you go crazy", which in the usual adult manner does not recognise that behaviour is only enabled by technology, not created by it), is also in exactly the same room too! I wonder if that was intentionally done, or just a practical filming thing to use the same room three times over, or just how that hotel laid out all its rooms! Either way, I really liked that aspect.

In all of the scenes with the students fighting amongst themselves (or in one excellent scene chasing down yet another bullied member of the group until he manages to forward the message on and extract his own form of cackling vengeance), they start doing Asuka's job for her. More than the deaths the purpose of the curse in this film is to push the bullies into destroying each other the way that they did to Asuka herself, as they all reveal just how tenuous and superficial their supposed friendships are. That kind of makes One Missed Call: Final the Battle Royale-influenced film of its series - we get a posed class picture being regularly returned to with each student getting greyed-out and supernaturally twisted in it as they are killed off, and especially that blackly comic first little vignette scene in the hotel room with the four 'friends' fighting over trying to stop a doomed girl from forwarding the missed call to one of the others feels like this film's darkly comic riff on gal pal cat fighting turned actual fighting for one's life to match the 'it all falls apart' lighthouse scene from BR.

It also made me think this deeply personalised, yet also random in who it is targeting this time around, vengeance is similar to the Death Note series that was getting live action adaptations around the same time (starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, the lead of the Battle Royale films!). A really great element this brings to the series are those round robin ringtone moments when, as Asuka is hovering her mouse pointer over each potentially doomed classmate in turn deciding which one to target next, it sets off everyone's phone until it narrows down to a single person. A lot more could have been done with that aspect, I think, but that's where the huge number of potential victims all gathered together in a confined space really works for the horror.

In terms of technique, I liked that we get the almost total silence of the sign language scenes, discussing the most important topics such as romance and emphasising communication between our hero and heroine (even allowing them to communicate from a distance across a crowded, otherwise noisy lobby!), which gets amusingly contrasted against the utter chaotic bedlam of all the students fighting over who can grab the next ringing mobile! And it was kind of inevitable that a technologically-based film that takes place in South Korea has to have its climax, at least partially, take place in a PC bang, as a ghost gets DDOS'ed seemingly out of existence, at least momentarily! (Which kind of puts this film in a group with the end of Hackers or The Core! All those films where our heroes have to call on the internet nerds to take down the bad guys and get the message out through mass e-mail campaigns!) That also perhaps makes sense of the idea of the feeling the film has of being 'inside technology looking out', from the opening titles to the bulging computer screen!

And I love that, despite having little to nothing to say about the grander lore, that this film marks itself as a One Missed Call film in the best and most telling ways. Particularly in that it does not forget to do both the fake-out 'everything's fine now' climax before swiftly transitioning to the 'lovers trapped on either side of an impassable barrier' scene at the very last moment and in a premeditated manner this time around, with the stuck revolving glass door having a Bird With The Crystal Plumage-sense to it!

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colinr0380
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Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: One Missed Call Trilogy

#10 Post by colinr0380 » Sun May 31, 2020 8:50 am

Major spoilers:

"From now on I only go to parties where no one gets cremated"

Emboldened by the journey through the boxset I decided to go a bit further and finally dig out the DVD of the 2008 US remake of One Missed Call from my 'to watch' pile. Its not great, but it fails in a lacklustre way rather than for any drastic liberties that it takes with the source material. In fact it is very faithful to the events of the original film (at least until the very final moments of the twist ending), but aside from a couple of notable shots and moments this is a great example of a film failing not because it is bad per se, but because it feels bland and empty of passion. Which is probably the worst thing that a film can be! I don't see many theatrical plays but I would guess that seeing a play that had a great (or at least entertaining) adaptation then get performed again by a competent and professional crew whose attachment to the story is just that little bit less, which then goes on to expose a certain hollowness to the proceedings, would feel much the same way as I did seeing the One Missed Call remake.

There are really three major problems here I think. The first is that I really like Shannyn Sossamon but she never really convinces as someone of college or university age (I wonder if she was cast because of her great role in Roger Avary's The Rules of Attraction? Come to think of it, being influenced by Rules of Attraction may also make sense of some of the more 'daring' stylistic shots of One Missed Call where the shot-countershot in that first received call is directly to camera, with the friend handing her phone directly at the camera to let the heroine listen to the message!), but then none of the 'students' convince here that they are any younger than their late 20s so its a symptom of the entire film really. I think all of the actors are a bit hamstrung by that 'too old' issue despite doing good, if in Sossamon's case subdued, work. But that leads me to the second 'problem', which is that the script is mostly faithful to the original film but while it feels as if it has been adapted by someone who really grasped all the nuances of the 2003 original instead of keeping things vague and potentially confusing (as arguably Miike's film is), it is full, and I mean full, of lines of dialogue of people explaining the story to each other rather than it feeling as if it arises naturally through the events of the film. It is hard to explain, but this remake makes both the actions and motivations of every character explicit through dialogue, especially when we get to the final 'investigative' section of the historical child abuse, in which Ed Burns' character gets to narrate character motivations at Sossamon, and vice versa, in order to ensure that no member of the audience can be left unsure about what exactly happened. It is actually quite a good film to watch if someone found the Miike film confusing or obtuse in what was going on! It kind of feels like an early draft where the writer has got all of the themes (they have not spectacularly missed the point of the action, as in many of a J-horror remake!), but everything is too blunt, explicit and verbose to feel natural, in every area (including even set design and dressing with just a little bit too much trash on the ground to feel believable as our investigators pull up to the disappeared mother's apartment building!). It feels like there needed to be an extra draft to make everything a bit subtler that just never happened.

This issue is not just confined to the dialogue exchanges either, but it is there in the 'death messages' too: take the difference between the briefer, more prosaic/ironic dialogue in the pre-death messages in the Miike film: "Oh, no, its raining"; "Shit, I completely forgot"; "Why?..." with the same character's equivalent messages in the remake: "I don't know. It's the weirdest, weirdest thing. It's like every time I turn around there's..."; "Damn it, I forget. I swear that if I didn't have my head screwed on, I'd...."; "Why...Please, just tell me why!". They're all too long and fluffy to be tersely, scarily memorable. Or take the moment of piecing together the family photograph in the child's bedroom that in the Miike film has been torn up into little fragments and even then the mother's head is specifically missing, compared to the photograph in the remake just ripped into four equal sized quarters with no extra tampering to the image.

Talking of tampering to the image, that probably brings us to the third problem, which is the use of CGI. Miike's film was not exactly subtle about its ghosts either but here things are taken to extremes that are both absurd and generic. I am not sure exactly what the reason for including the flashes of demonic visions of characters with mouths for eyes or screaming fiery demons were meant to convey aside from upping the spooky factor of the early part of the film, but I was left feeling that the hallucination sequence in Jacob's Ladder still has a major influence over US horror and a lot to answer for! The visions that the cursed characters have get kind of hand waved away at the end of the film by a particularly creepy mother and child doll and centipedes being in the room of the abusive girl as she lay dying from an asthma attack, but it does not exactly have a particular purpose other than jump scares (and could also be influenced by the also overblown centipede that appears in the cursed video sequence of the Gore Verbinski Ring remake, I suppose! I was slightly interested at first at the suggestion that receiving the phone call triggers this demonic visions up to the point of death, making them much more like the use of the curse in the Ring remake as being a kind of disturbing biologically triggered hallucination caused by the curse, intensifying as the deadline approaches. But then the visions appear to Sossamon's character too when she sees her friend die on the train tracks, so yes, ghosts appear to be more just wandering about in full view to anyone who would have eyes to see them in this film). Although maybe there is a bigger religious element to this film than the original, as here there is the suggestion that there are larger forces of light and darkness moving through the characters of that abusive girl and her mother. The girl herself in the nanny cam flashback footage is dressed in an all black hoodie which she pulls up as she prepares to torture her younger sister (Symbolism! And which kind of adds this film to the paranoid 'hoodie horror' trend of films from the mid to late-2000s, where younger people are demonised by wearing such threatening outfits. The One Missed Call remake is done by a French director and especially in the 'hoodie horror' moment which feels similar to Ils, it could be more in the 'French extreme' trend than the 'J-horror' one! That is actually the weird twist of a lot of US horror films of that period brought to their material, where they were influenced by the J-horror and French extreme trends from abroad but outside of The Ring and The Grudge series where they brought the original Japanese directors in to helm the US entries otherwise a lot of what should have been 'Asian horror' instead got helmed by French directors, jumbling up the tone with a different approach to horror as the visceral extremity got applied to ghostly spookiness, with variable results: Gothika and The Eye remake also come to mind). In the final twist of the film (as mentioned in another of Ed Burns' detective character's over explanatory dialogues) we get the realisation that the mother was actually protecting the main character after their moment of Beth sympathising with the corpse only for the wreathed in black older daughter to appear, spear the detective love interest through the peephole by the eyeball, and before she kills the main character instead her mother appears dressed all in white (Symbolism!), grabs her daughter and pushes her into the detective's cell phone, then gives a slightly bewildered exchange of glances and shrug to Beth about "kids today" before peace-ing out. Beth is then just left there with a shattered home and dead potential boyfriend as the detective's phone starts calling someone else instead of her (with the cut to black as the phone rings out suggesting that the next call might be to you in the audience! Spooky!)

Similarly there is a religious angle to Beth's own childhood abuse too, with the letters presumably from her abusive mother being posted to her with the envelope covered in crucifixes. Beth tears up the first letter at the beginning of the film (into four neat quarters, that match the torn up photograph in the mother's room when they investigate it later on!) and then gets another letter just before the twist ending, which she handles warily but does not immediately tear up, as if debating whether to open it now after having had an abstract encounter with another mother figure appears to have made her feel a bit bolder in addressing her own life experiences now.

Probably the most telling failure of the film are the death scenes. The death of the early boyfriend character in the film is kind of synced up to a building site accident across the street, which feels less like One Missed Call than something out of The Omen or Final Destination! So that's rather lame, but the most telling thing is how the film handles the central exorcism scene. In the Miike film this gets used for a bit of low key satire and a comment on the parasitic nature of reality TV picking up members of the public with false promises of hope and then dropping participants back into their terrible circumstances once they have served their entertainment purposes. The theme is vaguely there in the remake too, but much more muted. Ray Wise turns up as the producer of the cheesy "American Miracles" show, which immediately suggests he will be portraying a bad guy in some fashion, but instead he is just used against type as a rather standard TV producer rather than a particularly exploitational figure, and aside from the amusing line from the exorcist "I command you in the name of God, in the name of all of His heavenly angels, to be gone from this cell phone!", the big central scene of the film is otherwise played completely straight. The exorcism is also set inside an actual church rather than a over-dressed TV stage too, which mutes the satire. And all the pre-death demonic visions don't help as the friend Taylor sees the statues come to twisted life (which I think is meant to be cheekily blasphemous, but reminded me more of that sequence in Young Sherlock Holmes!), before a smoky ghost shadow enters her body and chokes her to death. That's right, we do not even get the comically amusing twisting to death until the head pops off scene here! I think that is probably because this remake is more invested in the fight between light and darkness being a real thing (as in the climax above) than Miike's blackly comic detachment, but that kind of wrong-foots the entire point of the scene.

The idea of possession itself does not really crop up at all in this film at all, apart from Taylor having a ghost 'jump into her' to choke her in the exorcism scene. Although I guess the idea that these bigger forces swirling around the abusive girl and her mother is suggesting they are being controlled in some way, yet in the heat of the moment the film does seem to be only be saying that this particular girl is just a bit of an evil monster!
___

I was impressed that the remake kept the child abuse motivation for events intact, even down to the childhood flashback peephole moments! Though it is really impossible to remake this film without any of that material, as it is so integral to the point of the story that it could not be cut out or muted. And it does prepare for the ironic twist at the end of the film, so they needed all of the other material to lead up to it. Also, why is the peephole at the front door of Beth's house set so far up the doorway that no human being could look through it? I guess to tie in with her childhood flashback of having to stand on tiptoes to look through the peephole, but unfortunately it is placed so absurdly high up in a film that is set in ostensibly 'real world' that it comes across as absurd from the first moment that it appears! (And also another difference is Beth's house, albeit shared with her friend, is absolutely enormous and it is amusing to compare the old dark house here with the extra cramped living quarters in the Japanese films, where the ghost ends up being stuffed into an overhead corner cupboard or having to hide in a shower stall!)

I guess that the filmmakers despite tackling the abuse aspects of the material did not want to push into the sadistic-romantic relationship that climaxes Miike's film (perhaps finding it too perverse?), and the climax that they come up with here is a bit different, though it its own way it is as ironic and nasty! I think that it also may explain (though not justify!) the incredibly silly moment of the first victim's cat getting offed as collateral (col-cat-eral?) damage in the pre-credits sequence where both get dragged into the koi carp pond that all American homes have in their back yards, since Ed Burns' character basically ends up in the same role as that cat in the surprise ending of the film, getting the spike through the eye when he goes to the peephole compared to the spike being used more as just a jumpscare in the Miike film.

So its not great, and while it mostly follows the plot of the original film the few twists do not really justify its existence. It is not awful though, just perfunctory and going through the motions. I still prefer the Pulse remake the most out of all the US remakes of the time though because, whilst it spectacularly misses the point of the original film, it fully commits to its twisted inverted approach that makes the film into something completely different (and this is going off on a tangent but hearing stories about filmmakers in the era of 'social distancing' debating about producing films on 'virtual sets' reminded me a lot of the two sequels to the Pulse remake, which did 'virtual sets' a decade before it was cool! It provided a weird 'fuzzy felted' quality to the actors wandering about composited into sets with the perspective a bit off in them, but for post-apocalyptic horror film sequels that quality added a nice off kilter sense to the action, even if I also got the impression that it likely was not intended to feel quite so strange!)

I also have to admit that on looking into his other work I would quite like to see the director Eric Valette's 2010 film playing on fears of cars powered by alternate forms of fuel, Super Hybrid, sometime! It looks amusingly silly! Maybe it would work in a double bill with that Monster Trucks film!

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