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.
My ability to remain busy doing nothing never fails to amaze me. It’s not that I’m lazy or procrastinate a lot (well not often anyway), but time seems to just vanish at far too fast a rate for my taste. They say time appears to go more quickly as you get older, which makes me feel really ancient. Take today for example. I got up quite late (okay around 10:30) and feel as if I haven’t stopped all day. Yet a glance around the room makes me realise that I’ve spent nearly 12 hours doing absolutely nothing. It’s not that I think I’ve wasted my time, it’s just that I can’t see the results of anything I’ve done, or remember doing anything that took even remotely like 12 hours to do. All I’ve done is get up, cook lunch, take a photo, buy a few DVDs, write a posting in an online forum and answer a few online questionnaires. I’ve no idea how I’ve managed to make that last 12 hours, especially as I know I didn’t spend any longer on any of those things than I actually needed to. I think at the weekend I somehow get transferred into another dimension, where time goes more quickly. (To be fair the same thing happens during the week too, when I’m at work and never have enough time to do what I want.) Maybe I’m just slow, period. How normal people with normal lives cope with everything I’ll never know. This movie features ‘something’ from another plane of existence; but I swear it’s not me.
1981 – Certificate: 18 – USA
Rating Details: Language; Infrequent, Strong. Sex/Nudity: Occasional, Strong. Violence: Occasional, Strong. Other: Horror, Sexual Assault
This is a genuinely great horror film. It was one of the first horror DVDs I bought and is probably in my Top Ten horrors of all time. And despite it going all a bit “Ghostbusters” at one point, it remains genuinely scary and horrifying. It also has one of those classic bits of horror music, which in this case is little more than the same chord played over and over again, but the ugly violence of the sound really enhances the scenes it’s used in to up their impact. The movie is based on what’s claimed to be real incidents in someone’s life, which gives it a bit of an unpleasant edge too. Barbara Hershey is great as our hero Carla Moran. She convincingly portrays a whole range of emotions really well. She also manages to vary her appearance too, from sexy and determined through to vulnerable and beaten. Sadly, time hasn’t been so kind to the special effects, which definitely look dated now; the wobbly ice-cube thing near the end really has past its sell-by date. It’s not the sort of film I can watch and then feel comfortable going into another room after, without quickly switch on the light. However, the scariest thing of all is Doctor Phil Sneiderman, the psychiatrist who Carla goes to see. He’s stalker-like attraction to Carla is pretty weasel-like; eew! You expect poltergeists’ behavior to be kind of strange, but not your doctor’s. What a weirdo. I can’t imagine this film won’t be ‘reimagined’ at some point in the near future.
Recommended for fans of high quality, scary horror.
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? Has to be Carla Moran’s “I’ve finished running” monologue. When you’ve got a supernatural being wanting to rape you, you’re trapped in a building with big containers of liquid helium suspended over your head and your bathed in stupid red lights and wailing sirens (courtesy of some dodgy scientists’ entirely superfluous “emergency mode” lighting), then calling the invisible baddie a bastard at that moment has got to be badass. I think it probably just pissed him off though.