It’s time for a retro horror film and One Missed Call definitely lives up to what you would expect there. It’s a horror film that plays it very by the numbers without a whole lot going for it beyond being…well a classic horror film. This one involves phones and a villain so powerful that it’s like you’re fighting against destiny itself. The film doesn’t have a particularly strong cast or memorable visuals to keep it afloat but at the same time it’s certainly not the worth horror film I’ve seen. I doubt I’ll even remember it too vividly several years from now.
The movie starts with the most intense scene in the film to be honest as a lady walks towards a pond when a giant hand emerges and drags her under. It also grabs the cat so the film decided to start off with an animal death for some bizarre reason. Leaving that aside for a moment though, the scene gave the villain a pretty intense design right off the gate and it was memorable. It reminded me of the Redead hands from the Legend of Zelda games. Unfortunately after this you will not see any memorable designs like that at all. In fact once we see the actual mastermind at the end of the film, the villain looks super unimpressive. Basically normal if you will and that’s no fun.
All right so back to the plot. Everyone is worried about the way the girl died and then another girl gets a voicemail from her number but it’s from a future date and has another girl’s voice. This girl promptly dies at the exact time of the voicemail and this “Phone curse” continues to spread. Each victim receives a call from the last victim with a voicemail dated at the exact time that the next victim will die. In essence the instant you receive this voicemail you are already dead which is a sobering thought unless you can escape destiny. Beth is the main heroine of the movie and she has a little time while all of her friends are bumped off. Once they are gone though then she will be next in the firing line. Oh I should also mention every victim gets a candy that they spit out after they die. Pretty random detail but its so random that it’s actually kind of interesting so I’ll give the film credit there. Of course it is explained later on but even if it wasn’t that’s the kind of randomness that can make the situation even scarier.
Fortunately she has the help of Officer Jack who believes there is something to this. Unfortunately the rest of the police don’t buy this so he’s on his own. Now it’s great that he believes since there is some evidence to support it at least but the guy is super sloppy. So the biggest potential evidence here are the phone calls right? Tangible calls that you could trace to see what is going on. Well…over halfway into the film he remembers that you can do this and looks them up but it was such a basic thing he could have tried from the start that it really stands out. You just think “Cmon man” because it would have been easier if the film just said all records mysteriously weren’t there. Really make this as supernatural as possible.
After all this is supernatural so why would it need to follow conventional rules anyway? Jack mainly does good here but I do have to say that one mistake so many characters make is putting their eye right next to the keyhole. Seriously even in real life you don’t want to do that because the door isn’t very well secured at all. Just being near it is a dangerously bad idea. Trust me on this, you do not want to do that! Just stay away from the door and he was probably doomed anyway but it didn’t help matters.
We do get the tragic backstory leading up to the origin of the curse later on and the film gets fairly dark with the lore as you’d expect. Again all fairly common for this kind of film but it also just feels rather forced. I think the movie should have actually not had a backstory for what was going on here. It’s way spookier for this to be happening for no real reason. Just give us a way to actually fight back and then you’re set. For example, that giant undead creature from the opening was super spooky so that’s all you need on the scares front. Have the team try to figure out a way to defeat it.
I knew the film would be cheating as soon as the Star Wars “Force Choke” scene happened. So one girl named Taylor had a really good idea. She allowed herself to be recruited by a supernatural TV show where they record people being possessed and try to save them. These guys may be crazy or scammers but now she’s surrounded at least right? Well the ghost/demon/mysterious villain shows up anyway and just chokes her using invisible intangible powers. There was nothing Taylor or anyone could do and that’s when I realized how futile this was going to be. The villain was too powerful.
In any horror film you have to try and balance out the villain being really powerful and imposing while also giving the heroes some kind of chance to fight back. There always has to be some hope or else why are you even watching right? If the only option is to wait around for your death then that’s inevitably going to get boring and so the film needed to introduce more of a weakness. Taylor’s death just felt unfair the whole time because unlike the other characters I actually thought her plan was as close to full proof as possible.
I haven’t talked much about Beth and in large part that’s because there isn’t a whole lot to say about her. She really stands for being your average everyday person just trying to get out of this situation but she doesn’t have much character beyond that. You’re hoping that she will get out of this in one piece but that’s definitely not a guarantee in a film like this.
Overall, I can see why One Missed Call wasn’t really a hit. The film wasn’t super balanced and didn’t always seem to know what it wanted to do. It’s a fairly serious film with an intense threat but the world wasn’t very fleshed out and there’s nothing to write home about here. While the film isn’t super violent, you definitely do have some intense deaths here. The dark backstory is also intense of course. I did like some of the spooky visuals like the Centipede and the hand in the opening scene but that was about it. The rest of the film just didn’t land and you should give this one a hard skip.