Fans of late-era J-Horror will celebrate the release of the One Missed Call Trilogy from Arrow Video. Starting with Takashi Miike’s 2003 disturbing supernatural thriller, the boxset provides the opportunity for newbies to see the adequate sequels in all their glory. As expected this set is packed with tons of bonus features across two discs. Each film is provided with a solid HD transfer and an exciting DTS audio track. For fans of J-Horror this set comes Recommended.
“I didn’t download this ringtone!”
In One Missed Call Yumi (Ko Shibasaki) is a student who begins investigating the unexplained deaths of her friends after they receive voicemails from themselves in the future. As each person sees the missed call message on their phone (or hears the creepy ringtone) their death is inevitable. The random gruesome deaths perplex authorities while Yumi narrows her search to a dead girl named Mimiko and her abusive family. However when a mysterious videotape is discovered everything changes.
With One Missed Call Miike crafted an effective J-Horror film utilizing his own hyper-stylized visuals and foreshadowing a phone-obsessed world. Adding the raw force of abusive relationships and the seemingly morbid fascination we have with exploiting death on television elevated the film’s thematic reach. As expected it's a tense thriller that keeps the jump scares minimal (and gore too) while sending the creepy factor into the stratosphere. Of the three films in this box set this one fares the best due to an unabashed commitment to the material and eerie atmospherics that make at-home viewing an exciting experience.
One Missed Call 2 opens with journalist Takano Nozoe (Asaka Seto) investigating Yumi's disappearance. The strange death of a chef is tied to the cell phone killer after a witness describes the familiar ringtone before his body was discovered. She interviews waiter Naoto after the police question him. His girlfriend Madoka gets a missed call then dies in the shower twisted into knots. Naoto, Takano, and friend Kyoko begin investigating the deaths with help from Detective Motomiya. Their snooping leads them to an abandoned mine in Taiwan after coal dust from there appeared in Mimiko’s autopsy.
Set after the events of the first film One Missed Call 2 is a true sequel. From the start, this one feels like a solid horror/thriller but ultimately loses footing when it dumps the main villain for an unexpected baddie. While Miike’s entry was heavy on violence and frenetic visual language to translate the demonic behaviors, director Renpei Tsukamoto gives us more readable scenes and conventional visual storytelling without the hype machine in overdrive. Overall One Missed Call 2 is a fine thriller with some solid performances that I enjoyed watching. Is it more than just scares? Barely. You gotta see the first one in order for this film to make total sense, but if you can't it's no big deal. Start it up and check your phone for a few minutes till this thing starts going.
Shy student Asuka is mercilessly bullied by her classmates in the opening of One Missed Call: Final. They pour buckets of water on her in the bathroom and dust her with erasers in the classroom. She goes out to the school chicken coop and sees that classmate Pam has hung herself. When the class takes a cruise to Korea Asuka sends them a cursed text message with a photo of Pam’s head. Asuka sits at her computer next to an empty chair lovingly placed for Pam. On-screen she sees a classmate’s death from the killer’s POV. Hung from a rope the victim’s mouth opens and a red candy falls out. As more cursed text messages arrive, friendships are tested and the whole thing goes Lord of the Flies. Classmate Emiri vows to bring an end to the one missed call killer, whoever she may be.
One Missed Call: Final is the Final Destination follow-up. Here Mimiko is shoehorned into the story rather than building on the previous film or taking the whole thing into a new direction. The story is mostly held together with some basic shallow emotional heft that would be better replaced with more gore and blood. The stakes were lowered this time as victims could just forward the cursed text message as a means to escape it. Victims could just scroll through their contacts, pick some nerd, hit send. Not worth checking out on its own but as the end of the trilogy it provides a fitting closure rather than fodder for another sequel.
Miike’s entry jumpstarts the trilogy focused on toxic relationships and cultural pitfalls rather than just scares. Shades of his trademark insanity are visible throughout the film but a sense of restraint ultimately keeps the proceedings from full-tilt madness. The sequels follow more of a horror/thriller turn that favors jump scares and eventually CGI effects to convey the reign of terror emanating from flip phones. Late to the J-Horror party meant that many labeled these films as being a parody of the genre rather than a true participant in the movement. It’s hard to follow the success of J-Horror greats like Ringu or Ju-on: The Grudge, but the One Missed Call Trilogy was ultimately ahead of its time dealing with the tech addiction. Put down your phone and check them out.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Arrow Video brings the One Missed Call Trilogy to Blu-ray in a transparent Blu-ray case with reversible artwork. Discs are housed within the case using a single flip tray. A 30-page booklet and an ArrowVideo pomo card are included within the package. A slipcover is offered providing the same original Arrow artwork.
Both discs load the Arrow Video logo before arriving at the Main Menu screen. Scenes from the films play with typical navigation options available.
Each film in the One Missed Call Trilogy phones it in with an MPEG-4 AVC encode, a 1080p transfer, and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfers look great compared with previous home video releases. If you’re looking to upgrade those old Tokyo Shock DVDs then, by all means, do it.
For One Missed Call the image transfer is stable with plenty of color and texture with nice depth. Blacks are essentially gray and rather far from inky. The whole image has a milky layer that is far from pleasing. Some light grain makes for decent image quality but it is wildly inconsistent. Primaries are well defined though mostly subdued. Fine detail is occasionally apparent from stitching on costumes to the wood grain on desktops. Flickering occurs far too often for comfort. As with other Takashi Miike films, there is a playfulness with the visuals coupled with a frantic aesthetic.
One Missed Call 2 provides an image transfer that is bright with full primaries and plenty of life. Skin tones are even and black levels are stable throughout the feature. Costuming and facial features look solid. Plenty of fine detail and film grain giving the overall appearance of the film higher marks than the first film. There is confidence to the visual presentation that offers a natural color palette with lifelike images rather than the stylized presentation in the first film. Flickering is evident and specks pop up occasionally but don’t detract from the film’s presentation or enjoyment. Heavy noise during scenes in the dark mine shaft.
The One Missed Call: Final transfer looks great with plenty of strong primaries and well-balanced contrast. Some grain is evident though inconsistent. Flickering evident. Fine detail from facial features to costuming varies from shot to shot. Tons of noise in low light scenes. Black levels hold well in most scenes but fall off the edge of acceptability in most instances.
Films in the One Missed Call Trilogy are sent to voicemail with a Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix and an LPCM 2.0 stereo mix with English subtitles. Naturally, I favored the atmospheric DTS mixes which provided an unsettling experience in the most delightful way.
One Missed Call gets an organic audio track with the surround channels handling a ton of atmospherics and effects from crowd sequences with other supernatural noise filling the dense texture. LFE punches nicely on scares. Dialogue is clean and clear without distortion presented confidently through the center and front channels.
One Missed Call 2 arrives with an excellent DTS audio track with pronounced atmospherics constantly piping from the surrounds and front channels. Dialogue through the center channel is clear and clean with no hiss or distortion. LFE is tight and punchy except when sustained dread is required (which is often).
One Missed Call: Final arrives with a mix that is rather lean and minimal save for the copious amounts of surround elements creating tons of atmosphere. Kills offscreen are heard just through the rear channels making for a delightful experience with the lights off. Dialogue is clear and clean with tinny front channels but overall a decent sound mix. LFE is punchy when needed but never dominates.
Arrow Video never disappoints in the bonus features department. Across two discs you get numerous interviews, archival footage clips, making-of featurettes, and all the trailers and TV spots you can handle! All bonus features are in Japanese with English subtitles.
Disc One: One Missed Call
Disc Two: One Missed Call 2 / One Missed Call: Final
The One Missed Call Trilogy starts strong with a confident yet conventional film from controversial auteur Takashi Miike. The sequels follow the rule of diminishing returns while struggling to follow the mythology with predictable horror tropes. Each film takes a swing at exploring the cycle of violence and trauma within Japanese society coupled with revealing the dawning horizon of tech addiction among young people. The box set works great as a marathon of the three or just a reason to upgrade your copy of One Missed Call with killer bonus content.
Arrow Video has produced a killer box set for the One Missed Call Trilogy aiming squarely for the J-Horror completist. A/V presentation on all three films is solid with HD transfers and DTS audio tracks good enough to warrant an upgrade. As expected there are enough bonus features to please fans of the trilogy which makes this set Recommended.