One Missed Call Trilogy (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Apr 27, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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One Missed Call Trilogy (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Takashi Miike, Renpei Tsukamoto, Manabu Aso

Release Date(s)

2003/2005/2006 (February 25, 2020)

Studio(s)

Toho (Arrow Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: B
  • Overall Grade: B

One Missed Call Trilogy (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

The success of Ring was widespread, influencing a number of filmmakers from all over world. In Japan, its structure and the idea of technology being a conduit for which evil spirits can pass through to kill the living was imitated a number of times. The most successful local examples of this were Pulse from 2001 and One Missed Call from 2003, the latter providing its own spin on how modern cell phones connect us to each other and how they can be used against us.

The idea behind One Missed Call is that characters can receive phone calls from themselves from days ahead, replaying their final moments but with the inability to do anything about it. This supernatural curse passes on through their contacts list, displaying itself as nothing more than a missed call and playing an unmistakable ringtone with an unnatural entity behind it.

In terms of mood and atmosphere, the original One Missed Call delivers. Even though its clearly aping the Ring formula, it offers its own take which is a bit more verbose in execution. Director Takashi Miike (Audition) uses sound as a weapon, not just for jump scares, but relying on silence to drawn one in. Blips of audio, sometimes mixed with quick edits, give viewers a sense of unease rather than simply leaping out at them. Yet at times, this aesthetic is punctuated with what one might consider more standard horror activity. The film’s set piece, in which a character is given an exorcism live on TV, only to be killed instead, is a tad overindulgent, particularly when that character is contorted and decapitated. One Missed Call has good performances and creates a seemingly insurmountable sense of dread, but it’s sometimes at odds with how it wants to achieve its scares.

When it comes to conventionality, the sequels are much more guilty. One Missed Call 2 adds in a centralized love story, but also throws out the subtlety. Like its predecessor, performances are strong, but the pacing is not as ironed out as the film tends to drag in the middle considerably, not building dread as much as merely waiting around for the next thing to happen. It also has a head-scratcher of an ending, which feels like the filmmakers wanting to do two things and not being able to decide on either. Instead they opted for both, which leaves a logical lapse behind. Ultimately, One Missed Call 2 is a less successful take on the idea, but still quite watchable.

The last film, simply titled One Missed Call 3: Final, is a much different beast than either of the films that preceded it. With plot elements reminiscent of Prom Night and Lord of the Flies, it’s all over the map. Because the film adds a new twist to the idea, which is that you can forward the call to someone else and avoid being killed, most of the lead characters (almost all teenagers) are horrible to each other. The love story, which involves a deaf mute who takes a liking to the leading lady, also feels out of place. The various elements are interesting in and of themselves, but because of their sporadic nature, One Missed Call 3: Final never finds its footing, making it more of a slog than it was intended to be.

Arrow Video brings all three films together to Blu-ray in the US and the UK for the first time, utilizing HD masters provided by Toho. Like most of these imported transfers, they’re generally pleasant, but with slight caveats. The first film has uneven contrast and grain levels, but is an organic presentation overall. The color palette offers a nice variety of hues, none of them particularly bold, but definitely distinct. Black levels aren’t all that impressive, and the presentation as a whole could have been a tad brighter. As it tends to be a dark film at times, depending upon where and how it was shot, it needed richer contrast and deeper blacks. It’s a mostly stable transfer, with only mild wobble left behind, and clean outside of minor speckling.

The sequel exhibits a stronger presentation, with improved contrast, more even grain, and bolder colors. Detail is also heightened, and overall brightness is more pleasing to the eye. The third film offers the most variety in terms of color, particularly as it takes place across the city and in many different environments. It too shows improvement in terms of brightness, contrast, grain levels, and fine detail. Black levels aren’t perfect in either case, but they’re not quite as gray as their predecessor. And although the sequels share a disc together, there aren’t any obvious encoding issues.

All three films are presented in Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD and 2.0 LPCM with optional English subtitles. It should be noted that the third film features burned-in Japanese subtitles during scenes involving sign language. In all three cases, the 5.1 track offers an abundance of ambient activity and palpable atmospherics, placing them carefully in the surrounding speakers. The quality of said placement rises and falls from film to film, but there’s plenty going on to warrant it. The score and the music feel slightly intrusive, meaning that they sounds unnatural aurally next to the other elements. However, dialogue exchanges are clear and discernable.

ONE MISSED CALL (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B/B/B+
ONE MISSED CALL 2 (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C+/B+/B+
ONE MISSED CALL: FINAL (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C-/B+/B+

The following extras are included for each film:

DISC ONE: ONE MISSED CALL

  • Audio Commentary by Tom Mes
  • The Making of One Missed Call (HD – 57:06)
  • Screening interview with Kou Shibasaki (HD – 6:26)
  • Screening interview with Shinichi Tsutsumi (HD – 3:34)
  • Screening interview with Kazue Fukiishi (HD – 1:56)
  • Screening interview with Takashi Miike (HD – 2:31)
  • Interview with Takashi Miike (HD – 20:15)
  • Screenings (HD – 14:09)
  • Live or Die (HD – 11:56)
  • A Day with the Mizunuma Family (HD – 2:45)
  • Alternate Ending (HD – 3:44)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:21)
  • Teaser Trailers (HD – 2 in all – 0:51)
  • TV Spots (HD – 8 in all – 2:15)

The audio commentary with Tom Mes is not very good. Nothing against the man personally, but he’s a bit droning and not very organized. The Making of is a vintage behind the scenes look at the film, but also features interviews with the director and the main cast. The screening interviews can all be played at once, and were shot during the film’s premiere tour, of which each segment chronicles. The Live or Die footage is a multi-angle edit of the exorcism TV show seen in the film. A Day with the Mizunuma Family is the original camera footage of Mimiko seen in the film. The alternate ending is nothing more than a silly prank.

DISC TWO: ONE MISSING CALL 2

  • The Making of One Missed Call 2 (HD – 32:46)
  • Gomu Short Film (HD – 3:51)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD – 3 in all – 10:10)
  • Music Video (HD – 4:46)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:38)
  • Teaser Trailers (HD – 3 in all – 1:37)
  • TV Spots (HD – 4 in all – 1:17)

The Making of is a vintage behind the scenes look at the film, also featuring interviews with the director and the main cast. The deleted scenes, which are more like scene extensions, are introduced by director Renpei Tsukamoto. Ultimately, they add little to the film other than embellishing on what’s already there. The music video features the song A Prayer for Love by Aki, which closes out the film.

DISC TWO: ONE MISSING CALL: FINAL

  • The Making of One Missed Call: Final (HD – 51:55)
  • Completely Stuck with Each Other: Maki and Meisa’s Long Day (HD – 15:34)
  • Behind the Scenes with Keun-Suk Jang (HD – 11:45)
  • The Love Story Short Film (HD – 12:06)
  • Candid Mimiko (HD – 15:02)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:49)

The Making of is a vintage behind the scenes look at the film, also featuring interviews with the director and the main cast. Maki and Meisa’s Long Day follows around the young actresses during their daily routines. The behind the scenes segment is more like an upbeat newscast than an in-depth look at the making of the film. The Love Story short film tells the origin of the film’s central love story. Candid Mimiko is akin to the behind the scenes segment in terms of presentation. Also included in the package is a 32-page insert booklet containing cast and crew information, the essay Haunting by Proxy: Misdirected Messages in the One Missed Call Trilogy by Anton Bitel, and presentation details.

Though the original film was remade in the US with disastrous results, western audiences have not been properly exposed to the One Missed Call Trilogy, or many other slices of Japanese cinema—horror or otherwise—since they haven’t been readily available. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray collection of these three films gathers together all of the extras from previous releases and provides adequate presentations that are strong enough for a proper reappraisal.

– Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

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