Every week in The Bloody Truth, Calhoun Kersten explores the subtexts of horror cinema.
To say that One Missed Call is one missed opportunity is to let the PG-13 J-horror adaptation off easy. The movie is a mess of contradictions serving as a watered-down message about the evils of technology, in the same vein as Pulse. Unfortunately, like the similarly underdeveloped Pulse, One Missed Call lacks any real conviction in its message. The theme of “technology’s evil” is by no means a new invention, or even a modern one, but it is one that deserves a fair amount of recognition and consideration in our society, which is evolving faster than consumers can keep up. However, this alarmingly relevant theme is done a great disservice in One Missed Call when crammed into the same 87-minute running time as several “mysterious” deaths, a pseudo-love interest and a couple of cautionary tales about child abuse/neglect. Sounds like a busy movie, right? Unfortunately, most of these concepts are only half-fleshed out, so what we’re left with is fragments of a greater part. For a movie with so many things going on, One Missed Call manages to be staggeringly boring.
The blame for that lies on several shoulders, but most noticeably it seems to fall on the actors themselves. Shannyn Sossamon is wooden as the female protagonist. When faced with the people she loves dying around her (and witnessing virtually all of these deaths), she lets out a squeal like that of a howler monkey before returning to her glossy-eyed and dazed look from before. But what I find most insufferable about the lead character, Beth, is that she’s supposed to be smart. This may not be all Sossamon’s fault, but Beth doesn’t really come off as smart. She’s got the self-assurance thing down, but then she dispenses pop psychology that you’d expect to hear coming from Lucy in a Peanuts comic, rather than a medically-trained professional. Matters are only made worse when the hard-boiled detective character is introduced, Detective Jack Andrews. Edward Burns, who is usually so filled with charisma and heart, seems as bored as the audience is. Furthermore, the chemistry between the two is stiff, and I couldn’t help but wonder how committed Detective Andrews was to saving Beth. Lord knows I wasn’t inclined to do the same after watching her onscreen for five minutes.
Then again, One Missed Call proves that five minutes can go a long way. Clocking in at a little under an hour and a half (assuming you can make it all the way through the credits), One Missed Call feels like an eternity. In these types of horror movies, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to be pushing for the survival of the lead, but with this film, I kept hoping Beth might die so then the movie would at least be over. I’m not so sure it’s just the movie though. The pacing of it has a great deal to do with its failure as well. It’s an unspoken agreement between horror fans and filmmakers, but there’s a certain amount of bloodlust. Personally, half the fun of a horror movie is the creative kills. Unfortunately, not only does One Missed Call fail to deliver any deaths we haven’t seen before, but it frontloads the movie in the worst possible way. Within the first twenty minutes, we’re given three deaths before sitting through a forced abstinence for another 50 minutes before we finally get some bloodshed again. What’s even worse is One Missed Call isn’t one of those movies where blood doesn’t equal scares. The only “frightening” moments of the film are pretty much all about the body count. Those are really the only tricks the movie has up its sleeves.
In the end, One Missed Call doesn’t have much to offer its audience. Its PG-13 rating prevents it from accomplishing any of the things we’ve come to expect from our horror movies, but not even a little more bloodshed could have saved this movie. Somehow managing to be simultaneously mind-numbingly dull and mind-blowingly confusing, One Missed Call completely misses the mark. It’s hard to say whether it’s the script that makes the film so painful, or if its the schizophrenic pacing, or just plain bad acting, but no matter how you look at it, One Missed Call is a call definitely worth missing.