ONE MISSED CALL 2
By Steve Biodrowski
This sequel to the 2004 film directed by Takashi Miike offers up more of the same, but without the directorial flare that helped distinguish ONE MISSED CALL from generic Japanese ghost films. The plot extends the back story several decades into the past, moving much of the action from Japan to Taiwan, but attempt at doing something new does not extend to the basic formula, which remains unchanged: people get a message on their cell phone foretelling their deaths, and at the appointed time, they die.
ONE MISSED CALL 2 never truly addresses the central problem inherent in its sequel status: ONE MISSED CALL treated the J-Horror formula as if it were exhausted; it seemed to want to mark the end of the trend. This was made most obvious during the film's highlight, when one victim's death is broadcast live on television, underlining the absurdity of a plot gimmick wherein characters know exactly when they will die but are powerless to avoid their fate.
Any legitimate sequel would take place in a much-changed world, where the existence of the supernatural had been proved beyond any doubt; in fact, the only interesting path to take would be a dramatic examination of what kind of effect this paradigm shift would have on society. Can people continue going about their normal lives, knowing that they are powerless to prevent a malevolent ghost from killing them at random simply by calling them on their cell phone? Have plummeting sales of cell phones affected the stock market? Has belief in the supernatural increased religious observance or simply made people more superstitious?
ONE MISSED CALL 2 ignores these questions and mentions the nationwide broadcast from the first film only in a single throwaway line of dialogue, then promptly abandons the implications. Instead of a government-funded scientific task force trying to study and solve the phenomenon, we get the usual motley crew of everyday folks, plus a reporter and a cop left over from the first film. They get the killer phone calls and set out to solve the mystery behind them, but for some reason, they are all on their own, acting exactly like characters in any other supernatural story, as if their insider knowledge has somehow cut them off from the rest of humanity - even though the rest of humanity should be in on the secret by now.
The new plot line tells us that the "one missed call" phenomenon originated earlier than suggested in the first film, shifting the focus onto a new etiology of terror, in this case a little girl whose mouth was shown shut after she predicted the deaths of kids who tormented her. This rather tired genre trope (the spooky little girl with psychic powers has been in everything from RING to THE EYE to NIGHTMARE) gives the characters some more sleuthing to do, but it's mostly a red herring, like the "abusive" mother in the first film. In the end, after tracking down the "new" ghost, it turns out that, yes indeed, the ghost of the sadistic Mimiko from the first film is still around raising hell.
The back-and-forth of the script - trying to add new elements while wrapping up loose strings from the first film - creates a confused, tangled web. Major plot points are tossed off with a line of dialogue and no follow-up. For example, we're told that the cop has discovered that Yumi from ONE MISSED CALL was not really possessed by the ghost of Mimiko at the end of the first film; she simply succumbed to her own evil. What evil? And how does the cop know this? Never mind asking. You might be able to find answers in the novels on which the films are based (if you can read Japanese), or maybe clarification will be forthcoming in ONE MISSED CALL 3.
For the most part, the best bits seem recycled from ONE MISSED CALL, including the eerie ring tone signaling the killer phone calls and a scene wherein a victim is twisted into bone-breaking contortions by an invisible malevolent force. Director Renpei Tsukamoto does a competent job at staging the scare scenes, but his work seems fairly anonymous, lacking the satirical bite of Miike's take on the material. The new film tries to play it straight, even offering up a romantic love story that turns tragic at the end. The attempt to generate some genuine emotion feels hokey in this context, so it is little surprise when the tragedy is trumped by another confusing twist ending that leaves the door open for another sequel.