The One Missed Call franchise follows the law of diminishing returns: with each title the directors are less prestigious, the scares are less effective but the story stands in defiance of that trend as it becomes increasingly convoluted and silly. It all ends with this entry.
Asuka is mercilessly bullied by her classmates and when they journey to Korea on a high school class trip she plots her revenge by sending messages that contain menacing pictures and sounds depicting painful death to each classmate with the note “Death Exemption by Forwarding the Message”. The first to get the message is Azusa, one of Asuka’s most vicious bullies, but she is sceptical. The next day, while wandering around Jagalchi market in Korea Azusa is assaulted by a supernatural force. After her attack the other students start to receive messages and hurry to forward them to others and avert their own deaths!
From the off we’re introduced to a class full of bullying jerks as they make Asuka’s life hell and then the rest of the film gives us delightful prospect of seeing them all get bumped off. The opening scenes are pretty disturbing as characters like Hideki, Hiroyuki, and Azusa are physically violent to Asuka and for the first time when watching a J-horror I felt that the vengeful ghost was justified in her attacking random people even vaguely connected to her suffering.
What we have with the class are a few people who steal the limelight, the bullies Hideki, Hiroyuki, and Azusa, and a boyfriend-stealing Minori. Others form cliques around them or keep their heads down. If there is a main character it’s Emily/Emiri.
I first suspected, rather cynically, that we’re meant to think of her as being good because she has a Korean boyfriend named Jinu who is deaf but there’s a plot-twist connected to his deafness so shame on me. Anyway, bully or bystander, Asuka cares not and as the curse progresses we see the class pecking order pulled apart as characters turn on each other Battle Royale style. So Minori, stealing boyfriends wasn’t such a hot idea was it…
In any case I had no sympathy for these characters – or empathy for that matter because with the large cast they are broadly drawn and screen time is wisely saved for their bitchiness and betrayals as they begin forwarding messages to each other. This leads to hilarious scenes where teachers confiscate phones (for their own safety!) and students chase each other about in order to ensure they don’t get a death message with people imploring, “Please don’t forward it to us! We’re your best friends!”
Then when the deaths came they were a bit of a let-down, the best being Asuza who gets snagged by a rope and endures a terrifyingly abstract looking demon dragging. Unfortunately that’s about it and we’re treated to yurei-cliches popping up and body twisting. The atmosphere disappears halfway through the story when we get tangled up in back story flashbacks that explain the relationship between central protagonist Emiri and Asuka while squeezed in Mimiko the series Sadako-like ghost.
By the time most of the plot twists were revealed I was already losing interest and was rather bemused by Emiri’s solution to the curse where an online community including otaku and idols join forces to defeat evil. Idols? It shouldn’t be too surprising considering that the writer of this franchise, Yasushi Akimoto, is behind AKB48, the J-Pop supergroup.
If the idea of everybody joining forces to defeat evil sounds cheesy the depiction of it was but it’s intercut with more haunting action and the film ends on a bit of downer.
Overall the film is solid. It lacks the horror and comedy of the first and the plot descends into silliness but there are some nice character moments and one of the scares really works. Stand out performances come from Korean Jang Keun-Suk who steals the show – he learnt sign language for his role and I had to admire Itsuji Itao’s brief and hilarious performance as the ruthless teacher who is willing others in order to save himself.
Romaji: Chakushin Ari Fainaru
Release Date: June 22nd, 2006 (Japan)
Running Time: 109 mins.
Director: Manabu Aso
Writer: Minako Daira, Yasushi Akimoto (Screenplay), Yasushi Akimoto (Original Novel)
Starring: Maki Horikita – Asuka
Meisa Kuroki – Emily/Emiri
Jang Keun-Suk – An Jinu
Itsuji Itao – Professor Koi
Erika Asakura – Minori
Miho Amakawa – Azusa Kusuki
Karen Oshima – Mimiko