Found-footage, Torture Porn, J-horror, and remakes defined horror in the aughts. Not surprisingly, the remake craze eventually moved on from 80s slashers to the hot Japanese horror market. Things started off well enough as Gore Verbinski’s American update of Ringu proved to be a great horror movie in its own right. And The Grudge – the remake of Ju-On – scared up plenty of box office dollars to keep the remake train rolling. While remakes of Dark Water and Pulse made money, critics were increasingly unimpressed. But the 2008 remake of Takashi Miike’s One Missed Call scraped the bottom of the barrel earning a rare 0% at Rotten Tomatoes. Just how bad is it compared to Miike’s original J-horror?
One Missed Call (2003) an Eerie But Overly Familiar Exercise in J-Horror Tropes
High school student Yumi Nakamura’s friend, Yoko, died under mysterious circumstances. While police label the death a suicide, Yoko claimed she received a voicemail from a future version of herself at the precise moment of her death. Now Yumi and friends are getting the same voicemails and dying at the precise moment predicted. Based on the novel Chakushin Ari by Yasushi Akimoto, One Missed Call had all the hallmarks for a creepy J-horror adaptation. And director Takashi Miike was the same controversial filmmaker responsible for the ultra-violent Ichi the Killer and horror classic Audition. Indeed, for much of its nearly two hours, One Missed Call benefits from Miike’s stylistic approach to the material.
Yet Miike’s keen eye for visuals can’t shake the feeling that we’ve seen these scares and contorting girl ghosts before.
There’s a unique premise that drives One Missed Call’s action. In those opening scenes, Miike makes the most of this concept and immediately hooks you. Despite Miike’s reputation for extreme violence, he shows restraint here. Specifically, most of the deaths balance the thriller’s mystery with often relentless suspense. While there’s some moments of grisly violence, Miike keeps these images brief, which makes them more shocking. There’s also some variety to the death scenes with an attempt at a televised exorcism and the finale itself standing out. Yet Miike’s keen eye for visuals can’t shake the feeling that we’ve seen these scares and contorting girl ghosts before. Even the nature of the thriller’s curse feels recycled from other recent Japanese horror movies. A somewhat bloated middle act also drags things down a bit too much. The overall result is a creepy horror movie that falls a bit short of its contemporaries.
One Missed Call (2008) Remake Loses Something in Translation
If Miike’s One Missed Call feels like a lesser entry to Japanese horror compared to Ringu or Ju-On, it’s practically The Exorcist compared to the American remake. From its opening scene, the 2008 One Missed Call immediately establishes two things. Director Eric Valette – who’s done nothing noteworthy since – equates ‘loud noises’ with scares and suspense. If the original thriller relied on carefully crafted atmosphere, the remake plays like a hamfisted episode of any CW television show. And writer Andrew Klavan demonstrates only a cursory understanding of the premise despite aping the basic plot points. Too bad it’s all downhill from that point onward.
If the original thriller relied on carefully crafted atmosphere, the remake plays like a hamfisted episode of any CW television show.
What’s particularly frustrating about the remake is that is does follow the original story quite closely in terms of plot points. It’s also a significantly shorter movie, which in no way makes it a tighter or more suspenseful effort. Valette tries to put his own mark on the concept by adding visuals and scares that only erode the mystery of the premise. Moreover, Valette doesn’t know how to stage his scares to draw you in before making you jump. This One Missed Call remake does star some talented actors – including Shannyn Sossamon, Ed Burns, Margaret Cho, and Ray Wise – who all look like they’d rather be anywhere but in this movie. The remake lacks any sort of subtly, feeling like it’s skipping rapidly over the original’s best scenes one after the other. At times, Valette feels like he’s cribbing more from Final Destination than Miike’s work.
A Remake in Title Only Remains One of the Aughts’ Worst
Something clearly got lost in the translation of the original J-horror One Missed Call into its insipid American remake. Maybe the 2008 version wasn’t quite deserving of its 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, it’s a bad movie on just about any objective measure of quality. But it’s watchable, short, and has decent enough production values. Nonetheless, this J-horror remake is easily the worst of the American updates of Japanese horror movies that were popular in the aughts. And it’s a serious contender for one of the worst remakes of the 2000s. If Takashi Miike’s One Missed Call falls short of other J-horror from the decade, it’s cinematic giant next to the remake.