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.
Striving for the ultimate inner beauty can be deadly. Six gorgeous yet narcissistic women, driven by their superficial existence, are lured to the most prestigious underground yoga studio. Their desire for beauty holds no bonds and each will stop at nothing to achieve it. As they settle in the studio and begin their quest, strange and disturbing events start taking place. Girls start disappearing and it is evident there’s an evil presence among them. Their quest for beauty brought them to this haunted studio; their will to survive is the only thing that can get them out.
2009 – Certificate: Not Rated – Korean Film
5.5 out of 10
My campaign to get fit, live forever, save the planet and save money, literally took a giant step forward this week, when for four days in a row I walked to work and back, a total of nearly 20 miles! To celebrate this and mitigate the worrying fact that I may be turning into some sort of boring, fitness junkie, today I ordered a giant Indian takeaway for my dinner, complete with beer. Oh well, it’s back to the starting line next week. This film is about something not altogether dissimilar.
Like me, this movie is all about people who only care how they can use their looks to get on in life. Consequently, it’s hard to sympathise with them when they start to ‘disappear’. They’re simply obsessed with being bitchy in the way adults are and being more beautiful than anyone else. They can’t even follow the yoga teacher’s simple rules. It doesn’t help that all of them are already gorgeous looking anyway. It’s very much an ironic case of, tough, but you can’t have your cake and eat it. Outside of its six babes, this is a movie that looks good, in a gloomy, haunted house kind of way, but commits the number one sin for a horror; it’s simply not scary. After I’d watched it, I didn’t have any problems going to the toilet via the dark hall outside my living room. The best horrors can have me checking inside the shower and not turning my back on the bathroom door, ‘just in case’. Testing the lock on the front door and looking inside the wardrobe are not unheard of either. It’s passable as a film to spend an evening watching, but its lack of really scary stuff makes it quite boring at times.
Music. There isn’t much, although it’s so forgettable that I’ve forgotten about it already.
Recommend for yoga teachers, TV presenters, shopping-channel aficionados and consumers of vapid, shallow, corporate-sponsored glamour and beauty. Not recommended for yoga students.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Near the end of the film, Hyo-jung is in a subway station, where she starts to see people she thinks are dead. The symbolism of it was all rather lost on me. However, at precisely 1:33:37 she lets out a wonderful, nine second long scream. A great bit of movie mini-magic, which therefore makes it badass. You’d never guess she had lungs that big.