Subtlety. It's what makes Japanese horror so effective - and American remakes of same so ineffective. Japanese horror directors have mastered the art of subtlety, but it's still an alien concept in Hollywood, which explains how a remake that follows the original film's story fairly closely can turn out unrealistic at best - and downright silly at worst. Hollywood thinks CGI is the answer to everything, especially in horror movies, and I'm at a loss as to explain why they continue to think the C in CGI stands for creepiness when it certainly does not. You just have to observe this film's potentially creepiest moment, which is thoroughly destroyed by a moment of CGI utter silliness. Famed director Takashi Miike made Chakushin Ari (One Missed Call  (REGION 1) (NTSC)
), the original Japanese version of this film, one of the creepiest horror movies I had seen in a long time. Having loved that film so much, and having seen other great J-horror films turned inside out by American directors, I did not have the highest of hopes for this remake. It actually turned out a little better than I expected - but it's still the palest of reflections of Chakushin Ari.
The basic premise of the story is that people start receiving calls on their cell phones recording the moments of their own deaths. The phone calls come from each individual's own cell phone number, feature the same creepy ringtone, and are always dated a day or two in the future, thus revealing the exact time of that person's death. Then, when each such death actually takes place (just as it was recorded on the cell phone messages), someone in the victim's list of saved phone numbers is automatically selected to be the next phone call recipient. Authorities also find a piece of hard candy in the victims' mouths. The one person closest to the mystery is Beth (Shannyn Sossamon), who hears the messages and witnesses the deaths of several of her friends. In one of the most unexplainable casting decisions of all time, Margaret Cho plays the cop who pretty much blows her off. Fortunately, Detective Jack Andrews (Edward Burns) hears and believes her story; it seems his sister was one of the earlier victims of whatever is going on, so he and Beth team up to try and track these calls back to the source - and to do so before Beth's number comes up (in more ways than one).
One of the many things that director Takashi Miike did exceptionally well in Chakushin Ari was to limit the number and scope of ghostly appearances up until the last few scenes of the movie. From the subtle to the in-your-face manifestations, each appearance thus played to maximum effect. You can forget about that in this remake. I knew it was going to be a problem when this movie opened with a huge hospital fire, as opposed to the relaxed friendly atmosphere that started Chakushin Ari on its creepy way. And, as I alluded to, awful CGI effects are strewn everywhere in this movie (doing what was already a rather ambiguous ending no favors). Perhaps the worst mismanagement of the original script comes when one of Beth's terrified, fated-to-die friends ends up going on a paranormal television show to find protection. In Chakushin Ari, this made for a surprisingly effective and memorable scene, whereas here you have a televangelist trying to cast out demons from a cell phone. Sound silly? It is.
The worst thing about One Missed Call is the fact that it denies viewers the thrill of truly enjoying Chakushin Ari at a later date (since you'll already basically know what happens). The original is one of my favorite horror films of all time, and I would implore viewers to seek out that film before ever casting eyes upon this inferior American remake.