Follow TV Tropes


Film / One Missed Call

Go To
One Missed Call (着信アリ) is a Japanese horror franchise that began with the Yasushi Akimoto novel Chakushin Ari, written simultaneously with a film version which was Takashi Miike's romp into commercial horror. The story centers on Yumi, a college student whose friends begin to receive mysterious voicemails, announced by a creepy children's song. The only one who believes her friend's deaths aren't suicides (at first) is a young policeman named Yamashita, whose sister also received the Call of Death.

It was later followed by two sequels - One Missed Call 2 and One Missed Call: Final - and an American remake. A ten-episode TV Spinoff series was made in 2005. Manga adaptations and a pachinko video game were also produced.

Tropes used by the films:

  • Abandoned Hospital: Featured in the original and the remake, as a key location where the protagonist goes to try and find the origin of the curse. In the remake it's not only abandoned, but also burnt out after a deadly fire.
  • Abusive Parents: In both versions - social services suspected this to be the case with Marie. Actually subverted - it was an abusive sister. Marie discovered the abuse just before she and Mimiko/Ellie died.
    • There is also Yumi/Beth themselves. Their mother is physically and emotionally abusive (they freaking put their cigarette on their daughter's hand) and is implied to have a hand in forcing their father/husband to commit suicide.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The remake. The ending, which is quite different from the original's, breaks the established rules of the film and curse in more ways than one and quite blatantly (whereas the original only sort of "stretched" them).
  • Advertisement:
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: Jin-wo in Final. He explains to his girlfriend Emiri that at the Sign Language Summit where they had first met, he learned of the death call and how it worked from a deaf violinist whose girlfriend was killed by it. The violinist knew that he could’ve saved her by taking the call and dying in her place, but he didn’t, and forever regretted it, to the point of purposely punishing himself until he went deaf. Then near the end of the movie, Jin-wo tells Emiri that knowing her made him stronger, and that he won’t regret again. It’s this that makes her put two-and-two together to realize that the deaf violinist was him. And then as he leaves, she notices that her phone (which had the death message forwarded to her during the climax) is gone, and realizes with horror as the door immediately locks behind him so she can’t follow, she once again hears the cursed ringtone, and sees her phone in his hand, what he had really meant by “I won’t regret again”
  • Advertisement:
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Takako in One Missed Call 2, as part of her Dark and Troubled Past. When they were children, her twin sister answered the death call and died just days later. This fueled Takako's decision to become a detective and be able to end the curse.
  • Asshole Victim: Kibe, the male teacher from the third film. He confiscates all of the students' phones, just to protect himself from being texted against. You almost spectate for Mimiko when a student is lucky enough to hide her phone and text him, inciting a horrific case of Beat Still, My Heart.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Cell phones. Though admittedly, the phones themselves aren't sentient.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: The Jerkass teacher from the third film suffers this.
  • Big Bad: Mimiko in the first and third films. Li Li in the second film.
  • Bishōnen: Jin-wo in the third film. Look at how Emiri's friends start gawking at his photo near the beginning of the film. He is played by the very pretty Jang Keun-suk (in one of his first lead film roles).
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending of the third (and final) film. While the flow of the curse is finally stopped, it still resides in the last phone it invaded: Emiri's. Jin-wo snatches the phone and dies in Emiri's place. This leads to Emiri's catatonia. However, Emiri and Asuka have mended their relationship and it's implied that Asuka has become Emiri's caretaker. Plus, they manage to visit the beach like they have promised years before.
  • Black Dude Dies First: In the remake. Poor Meagan Good.
  • Blood from the Mouth: A little bit of blood on her lips is Natsumi's only visible head injury, aside from it being no longer attached to her body.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: And will reach you, through any phone. And if you should somehow lose or destroy your phone, it will kindly return it to you.
  • Calling Card:
    • Each victim spits out a hard red candy, which the killer gave to her victim when she was taken to the hospital.
    • In the first sequel, Li Li's victims instead have coal dust from the mine she was sealed in found in their stomach.
    • The remake adds another element in which the victims see ghastly visions of a woman with mouths where her eyes should be, a man with a cracked face, and centipedes everywhere. All of them are representations of things that could be found in Ellie's bedroom.
  • Cat Scare: In the first movie, Yumi and Yamashita are investigating an abandoned apartment when suddenly a noisy flock of pigeons flies past the window.
    • In the remake, there's a literal one - after the first victim is killed by being pulled into a pond by a ghostly hand, the shot changes to a close up of her cat - who is then, suddenly and nonsensically, dispatched in the same manner.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: A literal one in Yumi's classroom scene, where we are taught what Münchausen's by Proxy is. The ghost has it.
  • Chiaroscuro: Many of the indoor scenes are dimly lit, with the only illumination being orange lights that cast shadows on the characters' faces.
  • Child by Rape: Mimiko, as revealed in the first sequel.
  • Cliffhanger: The remake replaces the original's Gainax Ending with one of these. Marie's ghost shows up to save Beth by trapping Ellie's spirit in her cell phone - but the movie closes on the cell phone ringing ominously.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Marie, the mother of Mimiko/Ellie.
    • On the other hand, Marie did allow Mimiko to die rather than find help for her and the first sequel revealed that she wished Mimiko was never born and likely abused her, so she is no innocent herself. This doesn't apply to the remake, where Marie left before Ellie started gasping for air and didn't know she was dying.
  • Creepy Child: Mimiko, or Ellie in the remake. And in One Missed Call 2, both her and Li Li.
    • Although she's not evil, the remake does its best to make Laurel, the little sister of the killer ghost, as creepy as possible.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Yoko is pushed in front of a train and has her arm and leg cut off, Kenji is pushed to his death in an elevator shaft, Natsumi decapitates herself...
    • Then there's some of the deaths featured in the third film, including: strangled by electric cords, mutilated by laundry machine, literally having your heart ripped out.
  • Dark Secret: The killer ghost wasn't of the mother of the two girls, it was the older sister.
  • Daylight Horror: Some of the gruesome supernatural deaths, in all four movies, occur in broad daylight.
  • Dies Wide Open: How Natsumi goes out.
  • Disappeared Dad: Yumi mentions that her father was hardly at home, which allowed her mother to do all kinds of horrific abuses to her. She could only find solace in her grandmother, who eventually committed suicide. In the US remake, Beth's father was there for her, until his suicide.
    • Mimiko and Nanako only lived with their mother; a father figure is never mentioned. In the sequel, it's revealed that Mimiko's father was a lunatic who was killed by her grandfather. That still leaves the identity of Nanako's father unanswered.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Marie, the mother of Mimiko/Ellie.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Yumi is ultimately killed by Mimiko and becomes a part of her curse, though this isn't particularly well-explained until the sequel. Beth doesn't die in the remake, but the ending is ambiguous as to whether she's really safe.
  • Downer Ending: The second film, as well as the US remake.
    • In the second film, the only surviving protagonist is Kyoko; Naoto sacrifices himself for Kyoko's sake, while Takako has been killed by Mimiko back in the mines after unknowingly receiving the cursed call, followed by Mimiko using her body to kill Yuting in his apartment. Takako doesn't realize this until she discovers Yuting's corpse. Oh, and the curse is still very active, considering that there's two branches of the curse out there...
    • In the US remake, Jack is killed, and though Beth survives the ordeal thanks to Marie's intervention, it is unknown whether she's really safe, since Jack's phone then begins to dial a number...
  • Dumb Struck: Emiri undergoes this after Jin-wo sacrifices himself to save her in the third film. It's implied to be permanent.
  • Evil Elevator: One of the deaths in the first film happens when an elevator's doors open without the car actually being there.
  • Evil Hand: Natsumi's hand becomes possessed by the evil spirit and forces her to rip her own head off.
  • Evil Phone: The phones themselves aren't evil, but they are used as a transmission vector for a ghostly curse.
  • The Film of the Book: The series originally started as a novel, which was adapted to a film. It eventually received two sequels, all under the supervision of the novel's writer (Yasushi Akimoto).
  • For the Evulz:
    • Subverted, since the spirit has Münchausen's by Proxy.
    • More subverted in One Missed Call 2, which clarifies the ending of the first film to explain that Mimiko and Li Li are searching for more people like them to convert, which is still evil but at least a motive. In the remake it is not so subverted however, since after its first few victims, the ghost really seems to have no reason to kill anybody besides plain old sociopathy.
  • Gainax Ending: At the end of the first movie, Yumi is confronted by the ghost, but then Yamashita shows up to talk to her and she seems fine. Until she stabs him. And then he sees Mimiko's reflection in the mirror where Yumi should be. Then he wakes up in a hospital bed, and Yumi's alone in the room with him. She has a knife hidden behind her back. She somberly leans over and kisses him, transferring a red candy from her mouth to his. He sucks on it in close-up, then looks up to Yumi, who's now smiling happily as if she were laughing at something. Roll credits! Over a cheery J-pop love song, no less.
  • Ghostly Goals: Mimiko is looking for people like her who felt abused or wronged (her mother left her to die) to turn into more vengeful ghosts. In the second movie, it turns out this was actually Li Li's goal first, and Mimiko was one of the people she "converted."
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The camera stays on Yumi and Yamashita's horrified expressions as Natsumi beheads herself before cutting to a shot of Natsumi's wide-eyed severed head lying on the ground as her headless body topples over.
  • Gratuitous Mandarin: Being set in Taiwan, the first sequel has some dialogue conducted in Mandarin, though since most of the actors are still Japanese, they aren't quite on-the-spot. To her defense, Takako does say that she's only conversant in Mandarin and would rather speak Japanese had her interlocutors could speak the latter.
  • Haunted Technology: Phones, mainly. In the third film, this also includes a computer.
  • Hell Is That Noise: In addition to the creepy ringtone, the first movie and remake have the sound of Mimiko/Ellie's asthma inhaler.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Naoto in the first sequel. Just as his girlfriend Kyoko is about to be killed by Li Li, he manages to get to Kyoko's cell phone and answer it, so he will die instead of her.
    • Repeated again in the second sequel, with Jin-wo. Even after stopping Mimiko from marking more victims, all curses that are still active cannot be undone, and this includes Emiri's. Jin-wo then snatches her phone and dies in the most Tear Jerker way possible.
  • Hollywood Hacking: The infamous destroying-a-computer-by-overloading-it-with-mails from the third film, say the least, not quite right. You can't just put an end to a computer's life by overloading its inbox; otherwise, countries with sufficient population could have hacked into a government's computer using the same way a long time ago.
  • A House Divided: The main hook of One Missed Call: Final; a bunch of students on a field trip to South Korea turn against one another when they are sent curse-bearing text messages that they can forward to someone else so that they die in their place.
  • It Won't Turn Off: Although the characters do in fact manage to turn off their phones, the phones turn themselves back on when the cursed call comes. One character even gets rid of her phone only to get the call on someone else's phone the minute she takes it - and then her original phone shows up again from nowhere. And again when Yumi's phone, which was broken in half and tossed in a fish tank, shows up again perfectly fine at the climax.
  • Jump Scare: All four movies have plenty of these, some more "legitimate" than others. See Cat Scare above.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Natsumi appears to be blown out of her shoes when the spirit attacks the TV studio, right before killing her.
  • Matricide: Yumi's mom is implied to have a hand in causing her mother (Yumi's grandma)'s suicide.
    • And Mimiko herself is this post-mortem, since her mother Marie is revealed to be the curse's first victim. The US remake also follows this.
  • Mirror Scare: In the first movie, when Yumi is in the Abandoned Hospital, she passes by a mirror. A ghost follows her, but you can only see it in the reflection.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: In the second movie, Li Li, who had this done to her by angry villagers. One scene also shows the main character with her mouth stitched, and an urban legend that may or may not be related to Li Li is mentioned in the movie and uses this trope.
  • Nightmare Face: The ghastly feminine visage (presumably Ellie's) on the remake's theatrical poster, DVD cover, and trailers.
  • Offing the Offspring: Marie allows Mimiko to die of an asthma attack when she discovers that she has been abusing her younger sister for years.
    • Subverted in the remake, where Marie leaves before Ellie starts to choke and gasp and was unaware she needed help.
  • Off with Her Head!: Natsumi does this to herself when the curse possesses her body.
  • Ominously Open Door: When Yumi/Beth arrives at the Abandoned Hospital in the first film and the remake, she can't find a way in until she comes across one of these... which was closed just a moment ago. Not only is the place filled with ghosts, Marie's dead body is inside.
  • Police Are Useless: Except for Jack in the remake. Unless the ringing phone at the end means Beth isn't safe after all...
  • Reformed, But Rejected: In the US remake, Beth's mother has realized her past actions and repeatedly attempts to reconcile with Beth, as shown by the letters with crosses Beth found on her doorstep everyday. Beth vehemently rejects, rips apart, and throws them away. Beth seems to have gotten easier of them once her curse is (apparently) lifted, as she takes one of the letters after she returns home.
  • Revival Loophole:
    • The sequel shows that if you answer the planned victim's missed call, the victim will survive but you will be killed in that person's place.
    • The second sequel even expands this more; the planned victims receive a message along with their call that if they send their death to anyone on their contact list, the victim will be spared.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: Foreign if you're living in Japan, that is. The first sequel moves the plot to Taiwan, while the second takes the characters to South Korea.
  • Shower Scene: Yumi in the first movie. Not just for fanservice; when she bends over to wash the shampoo out of her hair, the ghost is revealed standing behind her.
  • Shown Their Work: Viewers might snark a little when Takako questions an old Taiwanese woman who lived in Li Li's village whether she could speak Japanese (she could) as a way for the film to do away with speaking Mandarin. This isn't far-fetched; Taiwan was under Japanese rule for 50 years, in which Japanese became the sole language for education, and well, we all know how nationalistic and aggressive Imperial Japan was in regard to indigenous cultures (just ask Korea). If anything, most of the elderly generations left cannot speak Mandarin well (it having only been introduced when the Kuomintang moved to Taiwan after the Communist takeover) and can only speak Japanese and Hokkien.
  • The Speechless: Jin-wo in the third film. Yet he somehow can understand Japanese just by reading the lips. His girlfriend, Emiri, also becomes this after he sacrifices himself for her. It's not quite this though (see Dumb Struck above), since she could hear, but not speak.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: In the second film, Takako and Motomiya discuss the events of the previous year and, in the process, recount that Yamashita (one of the previous film's protagonists) had died under the hands of the Mimiko-possessed Yumi. Yumi herself is eventually told to be this; her corpse is found while Takako and co. are still in Taiwan. Motomiya, too, if the Japanese detectives who tell Takako are to be believed.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: In the third film, Sinyichi forwards his death message to Takehiro, one of the Japanese Delinquents who killed his friend Aikake by locking him in a closet, preventing him from reaching his phone.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Before she died, Mimiko/Ellie regularly abused her younger sister to the point of hospitalization. After she died, she got much worse.
  • The Unreveal:
    • Most people find the ending of the first movie very, very confusing. The second movie explains it, but still in a somewhat vague way that counts as a Mind Screw.
    • The sequel shows that Mimiko turns people with tragic childhoods into murderers by bringing out the darkness in their hearts.
  • Understanding Boyfriend: In the second film, Naoto to Kyoko. In the third, Jin-wo to Emiri.
  • Urban Legends: There's one mentioned in One Missed Call 2 involving a ghost with a stitched-up mouth appearing beside your bed at night and asking you to play with her. May or may not be about Li Li, a ghost in the movie with a stitched mouth - there's no other apparent connection and that's not how Li Li actually operates.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Though it wrapped up the film series, One Missed Call: Final can feel rather incomplete since it doesn't even acknowledge the existence of Li Li, the ghost from the second movie who was revealed to have started the curse in the first place and, as far as we know, is still active.
  • You Can't Fight Fate:
    • In the first movie, everyone who receives the call dies. Even if the announced time passed and you are still alive, the clock will turn back anticlockwise to the aforementioned time and you will still be killed. (Such was Yumi's case.)
    • Inverted in the second and third movies as follows:
    • In the second movie: A person can be saved if someone else picks up the call intended for the doomed person.
    • In the third movie: People get an additional message with their call saying:
    "You won't die if you forward this." Made especially creepy when said by Mimiko.

Alternative Title(s): Chakushin Ari