Phone (2002)
By: Devon B. on April 25, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Force Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). Korean DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 102 minutes
The Movie
Director: Byeong-ki Ahn
Starring: Ji-won Ha, Woo-jae Choi, Yu-mi Kim, Ji-yeon Choi, Seo-woo Eun
Music: Sang-ho Lee
Tagline: Don't answer.
Country: South Korea
Phone was made by Toilet Pictures. I'm not sure if I think that name is cool, funny, or cheesy, but regardless, it's a piece of trivia. I guess it's not much of a piece of trivia, since there's a big ol' "Toilet Pictures" at the start of the movie, so anyone that sits through the first, oh, I dunno, second of Phone will be aware of Toilet Pictures' involvement.

I had overlooked Phone since its release because I'd delved once too often into the realm of Asian horror and coming up with yet another boring ghost movie. Then I found out it was directed by Ahn Byeong-ki, who directed Nightmare, which is referred to as Scissors in the special features. I loved that film, so figured Phone might be better than your average, dark haired, ghoul girl flick. I suppose it is, but it's still not particularly engrossing.

The film focuses on a woman who's written some controversial articles about underage sex scandals. Because of her stories, she begins receiving menacing calls and e-mails. She tries to go low profile, and changes her phone number, but this doesn't prevent the calls; they get worse when she gets her new digits. These new, more intensified, calls aren't from her previous stalker, but from a ghost. A ghost that's taken an interest in a young girl close to the heroine.

Phone follows the formula familiar to Asian horror fans. First we figure out who's the ghost. Then we must ask why is the ghost angry? Next we need to know if they can, or in some cases, SHOULD be stopped. Finally, we can find out who killed our restless spirit, usually in the final reel. Sometimes a film will transcend this structure, as with Nightmare. But Phone lacks that film's engagement factor, and since its "mystery" isn't unique, it unravels far too slowly. While there are a few effective startles, the film isn't as visually impressive as Nightmare, which I found also made it less eerie.

However, one stand out element was the performance of child start Eun Seo-woo, confirming once again that nowhere does scary children quite as well as Asia. Eun exudes charm, cuteness, joy, and menace, often all within a single scene, and her performance makes Phone worth checking out.

The DVD sleeve compares Phone to Ringu and Dark Water, but it is actually far more like One Missed Call, and may have even been a source of inspiration for that film.
Phone has a few spots, a bit of grain, some dirt, a bit of ghosting (not just in the story), and the print can be a bit murky. It's not great, but overall it is fine. It may not be the best transfer ever, but would be a lot better than most Asian DVDs would've been when Phone first came out.
The audio is in 5.1 Korean with optional English subs. A haunting, swirling soundscape is created with music and sounds where appropriate, but the ringing of phones gets old FAST.
Extra Features
You actually get a fair few extras here. Roughly 20 minutes of cast and crew interviews are available for your perusal, and these are generally interesting. There's also a 44 minute making of, which is sadly mostly made up of raw footage and a few clips from the film. This is still somewhat interesting, if just for the opportunity to watch Eun at work. A 13 minute behind the scenes is really just goofing off on the set, and the six minute production featurette focuses on make up and set ups. There're a few brief deleted scenes, as well as the trailer and TV commercial, and finally a clip from the wrap of the filming rounding things out.
The Verdict
Nightmare has made it into my annual Halloween with the likes of Halloween, so I had high expectations for Phone. It's not bad at all, but is a bit slow. If you love Asian ghost movies, this one's about on par with Visible Secret or A Wicked Ghost, and if you hate Asian ghost movies, it's still about on par with those two.
Movie Score
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