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Movie Review

In 'Missed Call,' plot is hopelessly disconnected

Email|Print| Text size + By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / January 5, 2008

Sometimes if my cellphone is near a set of speakers before a call comes in, the speakers start sizzling. This could be an "amplified electromagnetic emission." But it's probably just the devil. Ask "One Missed Call," part do-it-yourself lobotomy kit, part-David Cronenberg for the lobotomized, part anti-mobile propaganda. You know how it is. When the movies feel threatened by entertainment technology, they satanize it - "Poltergeist," "The Ring," "Pulse." For those last two and this new one, the instructions are in Japanese and aimed, more or less, at college kids.

"One Missed Call" was originally a so-so Takashi Miike freak-out. Now it's a worse-worse American eyesore. Its writer (Andrew Klavan) and director (Frenchman Eric Valette) can no more produce an honest scare - that loud, quick cut to a doll hanging in a closet; are you kidding me? - than they can deliver an ending that won’t make you want to heave a boot at the screen.

"One Missed Call" does have a great title, one nutty televised exorcism of a cellphone (for real), and Shannyn Sossamon, who was nutty-great in that episode of "Law & Order SVU" about the college student who claimed her professor raped her. It's probably on USA right now. Here the unit of victimhood is a lot less special. For one thing, Sossamon seems too old for both this college mess and for running around trying to keep herself and her friends from dying the stupid deaths prognosticated in supernatural voice mails. Kids, just change your calling plan.

Sossamon is running around with Edward Burns, as his latest tired-looking detective. They're like Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks in "The DaVinci Code." If only Sossamon turned out to be Jesus's daughter. Instead, she’s just another of the movie’s abused children.

The movie lacks the skill for suspense and the imagination for frightening imagery: Yes, folks, here’s another goblin who knows the choreography from "Thriller." Ana Claudia Talancón, Meagan Good, Azura Skye, Margaret Cho, and Ray Wise are all momentarily in the cast. Had they done the same electrocuted undead head-cock, the movie would have been something.

But no, this is another demonstration of how certain studios and producers care neither about us nor the skill required to pull off a respectable work of garbage. The kid in front of me spent most of the movie playing Tetris on his phone. I didn't care enough about the movie to ask him to stop (or to find a cooler game). The jumpy girls behind me laughed once the cheap scares started to feel just insultingly cheap. Men mocked the abuse flashbacks. Someone else asked why Sossamon was bothering to look around an ominously dingy house and drag herself through a vent when she’s scheduled to die in five minutes. The girl spoke as much to her friend as to the screen when she said, "I'd a been gone home." We were having different versions of the same thought: Cellphones are evil? Shoot. Lazy moviemakers are worse.

Wesley Morris can be reached wmorris@globe.com. For more information on movies, go to boston.com/ae/movies/blog.

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