<div style="float:left">
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-9764823118029583";
/* 125x125, created 12/10/07 */
google_ad_slot = "8167036710";
google_ad_width = 125;
google_ad_height = 125;
<script type="text/javascript"
</script></div>{/googleAds}Ahh, the horror movie cat. That feline sentinel of fright that not only signals to an audience when it's time to be scared, but that also marks the point in a movie at which the makers have run out of ways to scare an audience. The sudden appearance of a screeching cat from behind an opening closet door is a surefire way to wring one last moment of terror from unsuspecting movie watchers. But once this tried-and-true tactic is pulled on an audience, that's the exact moment we know the film has hit rock bottom. And in One Missed Call, the horror sentinel cat makes a timely appearance at no more than 6 minutes into the film.

One Missed CallOne Missed Call's premise victims receive a call on their cell phone with the exact time of their impending death and what it sounds like when they die - was adapted from a Japanese film by Takeshi Miikie, that was previously adapted from a Japanese novel. Although the premise sounds a bit like that of The Ring, to compare the two would be a huge mistake. That film was actually a quite clever little horror gem that found a way to make a ringing telephone one of the scariest things in the world. (Did anyone else's phone ring while watching that film?) But here, first-timers, director Eric Valette and screenwriter Andrew Klavan, not only fail to make a ringing cell phone scary, they actually cause it to seem quite hokey and ridiculous. When the cell phone rings, the characters back away with hands to face in simulated fear. To be effective, the concept needed a clever hook, or should have played off of some kind of fear of technology or government surveillance or something... anything! As it is, the premise just seems like a one-trick pony that grows old even before the aforementioned sentinel cat gets his 15 seconds of fame.

Among the film's many other shortcomings, is the inconsistency with One Missed Call's execution. Not all the victims die as a result of the phone call (or at least it seems that way), and for those how do, we're not always shown very clearly. And then there are some characters who die even if they haven't received the mysterious call. Don't want to pick too many nits with plot holes and such, but these are major deviations from the modus operandi that sap the film of most of its sense of dread and fear. These oversights are most certainly due to a weak script and newbie direction, (which can often be overlooked in debut presentations) but here, the mistakes are so integral to the film's effectiveness, they knock a fairly good-sized chunk of validity out from under the entire story's foundation. As a result, we get a sense that what should have been a fairly easy-to-control production, is quickly spiraling out of control.

Were it not quite this bad, One Missed Call might be like one of those hokey horror films that we look back at in ten years and begin to appreciate some of its self-reverential humor; or acting that's "so bad it's good". But, unfortunately, all involved take the project way too seriously. As a result, it feels like a college film school production, where everyone is competing for the instructor's notice, rather than working towards a common goal. Shannyn Sossomon made a bit of a name for herself back in 2001's A Knight's Tale, but here as Beth, a college student whose friends are dying all around her, she takes a serious step backwards with a stiff performance that shows virtually no range of emotion. Edward Burns is merely pedestrian as a cop that joins forces with Beth to get to the bottom of the mystery. Margaret Cho's comic relief turn as a desk cop is the closest we get to being entertained.

Every time we begin to wonder if perhaps we're being a bit too harsh on this PG-13 thriller, (after all, it is correctly targeted to the young set) the thoughts of that lone tear running down the cheek of a burned corpse confirm that sadly, we're probably right on track.