Following hot on the heels of well-known Asian chillers such as “Ring”, “Dark Water” and “Ju-on” comes a ghost story to top them all. “Phone” tells the story of an investigative reporter, Ji-won, who has recently published a controversial article about sex-scandals and has since begun receiving a series of menacing phone calls. In an effort to escape the phone calls she changes her number and moves house, but the calls keep coming. When a friend’s young daughter innocently answers the ringing telephone she begins to exhibit increasingly crazed behaviour. As she tries to unravel the mystery behind the phone calls Ji-won uncovers a secret that will change them all. Stylish and terrifying, “Phone” follows the growing pedigree of Asian horror, that shock, scare and astonish in equal measure.
2002 – Certificate: 15 – South Korean Film
Rating Details: Strong psychological horror
7.0 out of 10
It’s confession time here in Cactus World. I’ve never owned a mobile phone. I’m one of the 10% or so of people living in the UK that doesn’t have one, a country in which there’re more mobile phones than people. It’s not that I’m a Luddite or anything. I got Windows 7 when it first came out, I’ve a 120Mb Internet connection, a TV service with hundreds of channels I never watch and even a landline. I actually have a mobile for work too, (an elderly Nokia smartphone, although no data contract to go with it). The amount of increasingly desperate marketing materials I get from Virgin Media offering me billions of texts, terabytes of data and endless free mobile calls, suggests its marketing department’s best algorithms have identified me as a dangerous, social anomaly that needs to be dealt with, by selling me a phone and mobile service contract as soon as possible. I imagine GCHQ has probably got me on its ‘high risk’ list of people who’re attempting to live off the grid, in preparation for launching a huge, worldwide terrorist attack on the good and the great. Unfortunately, the two things I’d actually need to make getting a phone worthwhile, namely some friends to contact and some time in which to do so, don’t seem to be included in any of Virgin Media’s offers, at least not yet… This film hasn’t made getting a mobile any more attractive to me either.
This is a chilling movie. At least the first half of it is. Then the story gets a bit muddled up and it turns into more of a straightforward, supernatural thriller, before everything gets explained at the end. The latter was pretty helpful, as by then I’d sort of lost the plot and it wasn’t as if I’d had much to drink either. It’s worth a watch just to see the terrifying little kid in it. I really did believe she’d been possessed by the spirit of her father’s dead, underage lover. I was going to ring the police to report it, but by then I was too scared to use the phone. This film makes great use sound, from the audio design itself through to the annoying ringing of the phones. The latter all seem to share the same cheap and nasty ringtone, although the modern option of the latest nondescript Top Ten hit by someone with little talent, played via a speaker with all the sonic range of kettle, is arguably no better. There was some decent DIY on show too.
One of the things that makes this film work is its music. In particular, it uses Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor Op. 27 No. 2 (aka the Moonlight Sonata) to great effect. This is one of the best bits of classical music ever written.
The trailer is almost entirely useless, as it does nothing to make the movie interesting. In fact if you wanted to see how not to make a trailer, this one would be a pretty good example. It’s over melodramatic, incoherent, says nothing about the film and is too dark as well.
Recommended for journalists, wives that don’t appear to do much and schoolgirls that want to get off with older men; and pissed off spirits.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Chang-hoon is some guy. He’s the CEO of a big company, has a beautiful wife and a schoolgirl lover, yet he’s got all the personally of a plank of wood. I guess his money and his (I assume) ability in bed must make up for it. (His wife was pretty boring as well if I’m honest.) Still, he’s clearly some sort of Korean alpha male, badass dude.
What’s the point of daylight in winter? Even on the odd occasion that it’s sunny, it’s so cold that no one really wants to spent time outside. But most of the time it’s grey, miserable and wet, like today. By 4pm it’s virtually night. It’s so cold, the days are so short and it’s so dark all the time, that nothing grows. Trees and plants have been around a lot longer than humans, so if they think the winter is a waste of time and just go to sleep, I really don’t see that we should be questioning their good judgement. We should hibernate in the winter and enjoy the summer, when we can actually have fun being outside and it’s light for more than 20 minutes a day. If I ever get my hands on a time machine, I’m going to grab myself a good pair of scissors and go back to wherever it was in our evolution that we decided that hibernating was a bad thing and snip off that particular evolutionary branch before it goes anywhere. Trust me, you’d thank me for it. This film is all about time travel and snipping off our evolutionary branch right here, right now; (well 1997 actually, but who’s counting)?
1995 – Certificate: 15 – USA
Good, another film about animal rights weirdos. Seven years before trying to turn everyone into zombies in “28 Days Later”, here they are apparently trying to “erase humanity from the planet”. They never want to do anything nice, do they? (The irony being, we seem to be doing a good job of this ourselves, anyway, without any ‘help’). Bloody hippies; I bet they all enjoy a McDonald’s double flesh-burger with calf-stomach rennet cheese when they think no one’s looking. So throw in a bit of time-travel and a moody Bruce Wills and what do you get? A decent, if sometimes confusing, slightly too clever for its own good, sci-fi film, with a couple of horrendous one-line plot contrivances that appear to have been added in a desperate attempt to stop the story smashing into a dead-end, from which there would be no escape. Image someone marooned on the Moon, air running out and with no chance of rescue, then suddenly coming across the remains of one of the lunar models from the 70s in which there’s not only a supply of air, but also an engine capable of allowing it to be piloted back to Earth safely, including a manual, in a language the guy understands of course, to teach him how to do this; with none of this being explained other than by something like the guy thinking, “wow, aliens must have done all this, lucky for me.” I didn’t really like either of the main characters either. Bruce Willis had a bit of an excuse, his character being a bit distressed and having a somewhat difficult lifestyle and everything, but I really wanted to strangle Madeleine Stowe’s Dr Kathryn Railly. For someone who was meant to be an experienced and well thought of psychiatrist, she managed to turn into a rambling idiot bimbo at the drop of a hat. And what on Earth did she like about Bruce’s character; god, there’s hope for me yet. However, it is a decent film, despite all that, with the secret, special ingredient that Terry Gilliam adds to all the films he makes; I’m not sure if it’s good for you but I could definitely taste it. A bit like what Colonel Sanders puts into Kentucky Fried Chicken to try to disguise what it is and make it edible, probably.
Recommended for animal right activists. Not recommended for monkey enthusiasts, as there aren’t 12 in it; in fact I’m not sure they’re any in it. Sounds like an e-mail to Trading Standards might be in order.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? I’m struggling a bit here, but I’m going for Bruce bashing the hell out of a pissed-off pimp with an old-fashioned telephone. I’d like to see someone do that much damage with a modern, hands-free set or mobile. It’s good to talk, but clearly even better to bash someone’s brains out with a phone. That’ll stop the silent calls and salesman ringing. Finding a way to combat the latter is most certainly badass.
I remember when all phone boxes were red with lots of their original rectangular glass panels replaced by plastic ones, always smelt of piss and you had to use either 2p or 10p coins in them; not that they worked most of the time anyway. Now you only seem to see them in quaint villages; or in people’s gardens being used as a weird sort of greenhouse and to give their owners the opportunity to say to anyone who needs to find where they live, “look out for the phone box in the front garden”; ha-ha very funny. Nowadays, you need a credit-card to use most of them, which is a bit ironic because nothing shouts out “failure” with a big arrow pointing at you more, than using a public phone box. With mobiles being so omnipresent, only the poorest or most stupid of people use phone boxes these days. So basically what I’m saying is that using a phone box is the same as making a public statement to the effect that, “I’m a failure in life, put me up against a wall and shoot me”. I never use them myself of course, as I’m a winner!
2002 – Certificate: 15
Language: Frequent, Strong. Sex/Nudity: Some Strong References. Violence: Some, Strong. Other: Persistent Threat.
It’s a few years since I last watched this semi-classic thriller and it felt dated this time around. I’m not sure why, it just does. Maybe it’s the clichéd presentation of New York that does it, I’m not too sure. This is a shame, as it’s otherwise a really good film, tense, original and entertaining. There aren’t a lot of films where one of the main characters is only on-screen for a minute or so. Colin Farrell (Stuart Shephard) does a really good job as ‘the victim’ too. Even cooler, he was in an episode of “Blakes 7” once.
No cats and no decapitations.
Recommended for the entire mobile telecommunications industry. This film has single-handedly done more for the likes of Vodafone, Orange and O2 etc than anything else. Walking and talking at the same time makes you a harder target to shoot at, a genuine worry than most mobile users have, I know; never mind that it makes you 100 times more likely to be hit by a car, or one of those lampposts that like to jump out in front of mobile users.
Top badass moment? Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker) for playing the ‘good cop with problems’. Give the guy a holiday someone, he looks like he needs one. Good cops are badass.