Miike’s J-Horror Follows Formula; C-List Zombie Spoof Stumbles


By this time, it’s clear that Takashi Miike can and eventually will make every kind of movie—his filmography already teems with formula gore, yakuza bust-outs, comic-book fantasy, musicals, death-rock avant-gardisms, pathological thrillers, humanist dramas, hardcore porn, metaphysical absurdities, etc. And satires on all of the above. One Missed Call, one of the five movies he made in 2003, is no more than Miike’s shot at generating a polished, rote, expertly composed J-horror flick. Stealing outright from the Korean ghost story Phone (2002) and the upcoming J-hackwork Premonition—both of which are soda-diluted copies of the Ringu series—One Missed Call follows a handful of schoolgirls (primary among them Battle Royale‘s Kou Shibasaki) as their cell phones begin forecasting their mysterious deaths. Soon enough, a backstory of child abuse and unburied corpses gets revealed; it’s surely the first horror film to pivot on a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Even at their most derivative, the new Asian horror movies have become something of a genre peak simply by virtue of the respect they lend to visual space and emotional scar tissue. The Ringu inheritance of electromagnetic media-as-spirit channel is just icing. Miike is all over the dynamic, but typically, the film has excesses—the climactic face-off is yowlingly reminiscent of EC comics, and the cheesy digital effects are all but superfluous. Better is the hunk of the movie taken over by a paranormal TV host, who shanghais one fated teenybopper to wait for her moment of doom on the air—with head-rolling results. “Less than 15 minutes left!” he cries. “What on earth will happen to her?!” As if we didn’t know.

Even more impishly self-conscious, Matthew Leutwyler’s Dead & Breakfast is as goose egg as its punning title, doodling around on the George Romero template with even less panache and goofy wit than, say, 1972’s Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. Lambasting hick brainlessness more doggedly than zombie tropes, the film even steals from the Farrellys, with mockabilly Zach Selwyn warbling Greek chorus ditties every few minutes while Jeremy Sisto, Erik Palladino, and various other C-list slummers fend off cracker locals, an ancient curse, and the wisecracking living dead. The blood is raspberry syrup, the gags gag, and the film virtually falls over itself informing us how lame it is.

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