by Jay Seaver
SCREENED AT THE 2005 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: I suppose that when you go to into a movie whose name ends with "2" without having seen the movie that has the same name minus "2", you're sort of asking for trouble. No matter how much exposition you're fed at the beginning of the movie, you'll be starting from behind, and what series veterans will see as expanding the mythology can come across as an awful lot to swallow all at once. And you don't get EVERYTHING, so there will be some nuances of the sequel that fly right past you. I'll probably see the original "One Missed Call" sometime (it's well-regarded, and Takashi Miike doing straight-up horror), but I don't hold out much hope of it making me realize that "One Missed Call 2" is actually a good movie.So, apparently, last year, there was this thing going on in Tokyo where people would get a call on their cell phone with (1) a ringtone they'd never downloaded, (2) a date/timestamp of three days in the future, and (3) the sound of the person answering it dying horribly. Then, at the appointed time, they'd die, and they'd be found with a red gumball in their mouth, and it was all somehow connected to some creepy, recently-deceased little girl. The last actually died on live TV. Now, it's all starting again, only without the candy, and with variable lengths on the timestamps. The main focus here seems to be Kyoko (Mimura), a day-care teacher who sees one friend and another friend's father killed off in rapid succession. With her own doom looming in three days, she teams up with her boyfriend Naoto (Yu Yoshizawa), the detective who investigated the original ringtone deaths (Renji Ishibashi), and Tenzoe (Asaka Seto), a reporter who has apparently also been following the case for a year despite apparently not being in the first movie; she appears to have some sort of psychic connection.
The series has a simple, effective horror concept behind it: You learn the time of your death, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it - there's no place where you can avoid a ghost, after all. If you're the detective investigating, it's doubly maddening. It's a pure form of horror - the inevitability of death, in a gruesome, supernatural manner that human ingenuity can't counter - indeed, the spectre is somehow using technology to taunt its victims.
What screenwriter Minako Daira does is to overcomplicate things. Coal found in the victims' lungs is traced to a mine in Taiwan, where similar deaths go back a hundred years, predicted not by cell phones but a village girl. The Taipei police have their own set of mysterious deaths, including one that provides a vague link between the two girls. The reporter had a twin sister who died young (that's right, we have three distinct creepy, potentially malevolent dead girls to keep track of!). There's apparently a character from the first movie who has gone missing, but that plot thread isn't explained very well and doesn't really lead to anything. There are red herrings all over the place, but they're not good red herrings which have sensible explanation; they're the type that just make everything more confusing. By the end, characters are just dying off-screen without much explanation because the movie has become too overstuffed.
Perhaps the most annoying red herring is that early on, we're told that Kyoko is busy studying to be a child psychologist, and I'm thinking, okay, that's got to come into play. The first scene seems to involve one of her charges seeing a ghost, so that's a clear set-up that the movie will turn on her ability to deal with disturbed children, right? Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case, and it's bloody maddening. By the end of the movie, I've lost track of what it's supposed to be about, and it certainly seems like Daira and director Renpei Tsukamoto (making his feature debut) have as well. What's the connection to Kyoko, so that her friends are the initial targets? What's the deal with Nozoe, her sister, and her ex-husband at the end of the movie? Was any thought given to the themes, what the characters, or any sort of cause-and-effect on anything but a transient basis? Heck, even within the same sequences, the audience has got to wonder how Nozoe can apparently be in two places at once (or is this coal mine just outside Taipei?). And would anyone who has ever seen a horror movie really suggest splitting up near the ghost's lair? Even if you don't know you're in a horror movie, that's got to be a pretty dumb move.
To give credit where it's due, Renpei Tsukamoto seems like he'd be a solid director with a decent script to work with. He implies as much as he shows, and does a nice pull-back for the reveal of how mysterious coal mine deaths and mysterious cell phone deaths could possibly be related. Just about everyone in the cast screams well, and I liked them beyond that. Asaka Seto uses a lot of the "intrepid female reporter" tricks without coming off as a parody or a cliché, for instance, and Mimura (who apparently just uses the one name) is the sort of likable young heroine that American audiences are familiar with. Nothing wrong with Yu Yoshizawa as her boyfriend, either.But when you get right down to it, this movie doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense. It takes a simple, scary idea, and proceeds to embellish it until it is neither simple nor particularly scary.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12533&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/14/05 01:14:32