Horror franchises have been around for decades. From the Universal monsters to Friday the 13th, Hollywood has loved making horror icons. The idea is not exclusive to American cinema. Movie studios from around the world have also made long running horror series. These have also been met with mixed success. This seems to be especially true of horror movies. Every entry seems to throw dirt on the legacy of the franchise. Eventually, the once revered movies become something of a joke.
The J-Horror scene has always had strong times to American cinema. While this can be traced back as far back as the popularity of the Godzilla movies, it reached its peak in the 1990s. Movies like The Ring and The Grudge were Japanese imports that fared very well. Then there is One Missed Call. The 2008 American release is considered one of the worst J-Horror remakes ever. Despite a strong cast that included Shannyn Sossamon and Ray Wise, the movie failed to impress anyone. In its home country of Japan, the franchise flourished, however.
The original movie was directed by the infamous Takashi Miike. The premise is a familiar one. A young girl receives a call from two days in the future. She hears her own screams and ends up dying shortly after. It turns out this is not an isolated incident, leading to an investigation, encounters with the supernatural, and more deaths.
Critics rightfully blasted it for being too similar to previous movies in the genre. There is some of Miike’s trademark style, but it is mostly a generic Japanese scary movie. It is bloody and violent – and even manages to inject humor better than the sequels. It is enjoyable at times, but it is hard to escape the feeling that the movie is just going through the motions.
One Missed Call 2 is a polarizing sequel. It does not split audiences in the standard “some people like it and some do not” way. There is strong debate over whether the second movie is actually better. The movie focuses more on the supernatural aspect of the story. It is more about urban legends and seems to try to get away from the stereotypical J-Horror. Others argue that while the movie is never bad, it is also never better than average. Either way, it is a surprisingly strong addition to the franchise.
After two strong movies, it only made sense for the third part to take a drop in quality. Horror franchises do not tend to have long tails and the One Missed Call series had already done more than expected. The fact that it is only loosely connected to the rest of films only seemed to cement the fact this would be the worst one.
Continuing the trend established in the previous two movies, One Missed Call: Final exceeded expectations. Arguably, the best of the three, Final tells a story that is centered around technology and bullying. As is the case with all the movies, the plot can be confusing, but it’s willingness to try something different makes it a fun conclusion.
The One Missed Call franchise is a great introduction to J-Horror. The first movie has many of the tropes of the more popular movies. It will be fresh to anyone who has not seen the genre. The second part builds on the story of the first. The last part of the series goes in a different direction that brings a freshness to the franchise. The plots of each film tend to lose their way, but they are all good fluff.
The One Missed Call trilogy was recently released by Arrow Videos. They can be ordered here.