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Phone (KOREA 2002)

Director : Byeong-ki Ahn
Cast : Ji-won Ha, Yu-mi Kim, Woo-jae Choi, Ji-yeon Choi and Seo-woo Eun.

Soon after Ji-won gets a new cell phone, her friend’s young daughter, Yeong-ju, puts it to her ear and immediately begins screaming in terror. When other strange things start happening in connection with the phone, Ji-Won does some investigating and discovers that of the people before her who had the same number, almost all of them died suddenly under unusual circumstances. As Yeong-ju’s behavior becomes increasingly alarming, Ji-won digs deeper into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the number’s first owner, a high school girl named Jin-hie.

by Edward Tang

For the last year or so, I’ve seen about 15 movies that center around the telephone. The telephone is a device that can be used for many purposes, like getting pizza or calling a 35 year old woman and enjoying yourself in more ways than one. But these small ideas couldn’t fit with the writers of the world, so the phone became a demonic device which signaled your death with an eerie phone call.

Ringu was this film and it remains one of the most popular (if not THE) Japanese horror films ever to grace the silver screen. But with success comes loads of irritating and mostly depressing films that just try to mooch off the success of Ringu! So I guess you could consider Phone to be a mooched idea, which it obviously is but this time they just don’t give a shit if you know. Hell, they titled the film PHONE, how more generic could you be? “Well since we are just basically taking the Ringu concept which is based upon a demonic killer who calls you, why not just call it Phone?” The film itself succeeds in taking this well known formula and relaying it into a few different ideas that by God, actually work! YES! The story and characters, while basically a carbon copy, hit all the right notes! Phone remains as another genre film but it captures your interest which little can admit towards.

I’ll be the first to admit that I liked Phone even though at first glance you could tell it was a copy. The story plays out like this: PEOPLE GET CALLS AND DIE, GIRL GETS CALL AND NIECE GOES WEIRD, WE LEARN ABOUT GIRL WHO WAS KILLED AND IS REAPING HER REVENGE THROUGH THE PHONE AND TWIST OCCURS THAT IS JUST WHAT WE DIDN’T EXPECT. Hopefully I didn’t just ruin the movie for you, but if I did there’s always a chance you can skim through LoveAsianFilm and read my 50 or so reviews for 90 minutes (That stuff is gold!) But anyways, the film relies on the thought process because the story really does take you in. There is a curiosity on the true events which gets the audience hyped up for the fun filled conclusion. I think that the film falls into the director’s hands who carefully weaves a story together that is on the same level of Ringu but has more of an emotional side that then falls into a violent Jerry Springer episode (Basically people die in a love triangle and there’s no white trash..sorry if I got your hopes up). The story is choppy and sometimes it cuts too quickly into the past which might make you scratch your head, but the effect is better than if there was some lousy old guy doing voice over or a bunch of people expressing the scenes in the dialog.

The director uses a bunch of cliches when we think about horror films, a bunch of quick shots towards scary little girls and the all time favorite, weird imagery. I got irritated with them after a while but then they just stopped. It seemed that the asshole just decided that half way into the film that he’d just stop the weird shots and just focus on the storied aspects. The horror crap in the beginning was just plain hokey but when we got into WHY this ghost was doing her deeds, it got very interesting. The story unfolded and gave you a little tidbit after tidbit which worked in the sense that it would change your views into who the characters were and if you agreed with their processes. I thought that the final moments of the film (about the last 20 minutes or so) were the best and made the film better from all of the random crap that happened in the beginning. For if you haven’t read my reviews (GOLD), you know that I hate horror films and their aspects, so the crap in the beginning just pissed me off more than anything.

There are of course bad moments in the film, which include that it just doesn’t break any new ground. This can be said for the action genre as well as the horror. Both of these genres have their top films, their bad films and those that aren’t bad but ultimately unforgettable. So my question to you all out there, if you had to choose the GREAT film over the good film that copies it, which would you choose? That’s what puts Phone into the ground, people will refer to it as a Ringu-copy and it will be thrown down the crapper. Other things like the typical horror gimmicks and some of the dreaded overacting applies to this category as well. Hell even the ringing phone got on my fucking nerves at the end. The ending of the film was kind of cliche with a “EVERYTHING IS NOW HOW IT SHOULD BE AND I SHALL GET RID OF THAT EVIL PHONE”, which to me basically says that “Well, we couldn’t end the movie any other way, why not just end it on a high note? Anybody got some pot?”

The final thing I’ll mention is the acting which is decent for a film like this. I thought that the performances were good in the fact that they were acting in a HORROR film. They could read their lines and do it without smiling, “Oh, I’m sorry I botched the line, it just doesn’t sound how people really talk. But what do I know? I’m just a person!” Everyone was good especially that little girl who made some extreme mean faces at the screen with mean eyes and such. I really didn’t need an added dimension when the girl is going through her “psycho spell”, she falls into having a sexual desire for her father. Yeah, this is a seven year old girl we are referring to. Let’s hold that thought in for a little bit…..that’s fucking nasty. Back on topic! Along with the average performances was the typically corny musical score that kind of seemed like one you’d hear in a badly done action film.

Well, along the lines of being an obvious ripoff of Ringu, it works in all the ways it should: giving the audience a few scary moments and a good story that keeps your interest peaked. I myself won’t be returning for a second look but what I saw was an example of how to do ripoff a film, but to do it with a smile on your face.

Plot : 2/5
Acting : 3/5
Entertainment : 3/5
Overall : 3/5

Notable Scenes
- Discovering the truth behind the whole shabangabang.

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Phone

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