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Phone (2002)

DVD Cover (Tartan Video)
Director:
Byeong-ki Ahn Byeong-ki Ahn
Starring:
Ji-won Ha Ji-won Ha
Yu-mi Kim Yu-mi Kim
Woo-jae Choi Woo-jae Choi
Ji-yeon Choi Ji-yeon Choi
Seo-woo Eun Seo-woo Eun

6.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Horror, Supernatural Horror
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Review by Chad
Added: December 21, 2006
As repetitive as they can be, what with their long-haired little girls, ghosts, and tales of revenge, I still haven't grown tired of Asian horror films. I've gotten close to giving up on them a couple of times, but it never fails that right when I come close to reaching that point, one comes along that completely reaffirms my faith in both the style and the genre. Phone is one of those movies.

Ji-won (Ji-won Ha) is a journalist who has just written an article exposing a couple of guys who have had sex with minors in some sort of underground sex trade. While this article was great for her career, it goes without saying that she managed to royally piss off those who now have to stand trial for their actions, and these men plan to get some revenge. Ji-won starts to receive threatening emails and cell-phone calls, and even though she can't prove that the child molesters are responsible for them, she knows that that is the case and decides to have her number changed immediately after "disappearing" for a while. She talks to her sister Ho-jeong (Yu-mi Kim) and brother-in-law Chang-hoon (Woo-jae Choi) about the situation, and they offer to let her spend some time in their other house out in the country. She agrees, and everything should be changing for the better... right?

During her first night alone in the huge house, she receives an email that contains an image depicting her with a knife through her face, and not long after, she receives a bizarre phone call than transcends the usual idle threats: what she hears is a mixture of static, screams, and otherworldly noise. Even though she's had her phone number changed, she thinks nothing of this and carries on with her life. Then, she goes to an art gallery with Ho-jeong and her daughter Yeong-ju (Seo-woo Eun). While there, her phone rings again, and before she has time to react, Yeong-ju has picked up the phone and is listening to whatever it is that's on the other end. This child, who couldn't be any more than seven years old, turns into a completely different person after this experience: her behavior radically changes, she has a newfound hatred towards her mother, and she seems to be in love with her dad (yes, "in love with", not "she loves him"). This wraps up the first thirty minutes (give or take) of the film, and it just gets more bizarre and strange as things move along.

The storyline, if it wasn't obvious from just those two paragraphs, features many layers and has a lot of different things going on as we get through the running time. Depending on what you look for in a movie, this can either be a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it's easy to get confused as to what exactly is happening: there's no less than six main sub-plots to pay attention to, and they're not all told in a perfectly-linear fashion. It can easily be argued that the amount of material featured here could have been split up into two or three separate movies, and truth be told, I'd agree with that statement. However, once everything clicks towards the end of the movie, everything makes sense and you realize why there was so many different ideas to keep up with: the story itself is simply a complex one, and yes, all of these various pieces of the puzzle matter in the grand scheme of things. After all of the various plot-arcs and storyline twists, I have to admit that I was actually quite surprised to see everything come together in such a tight, coherent package at the end. And you know what? Even though it does use a couple of the tried-and-true Asian horror staples, the story itself is a damned good one.

There's no possible way that I can finish this review without mentioning the acting found within. Everyone involved is great with nary a disappointment to be found, but there's one person that just completely blew my mind. That person is Seo-woo Eun, a child who couldn't have been much older than the seven-year-old character that she portrayed. This child is, hands down, the creepiest child actor that I have ever seen, and in fact, she's a lot better than a solid eighty percent of the adults playing these sort of roles. Remember Jack Nicholson in The Shining and Daveigh Chase in The Ring? This young kid easily tops both of those performances, and I honestly don't see how the director got a performance this good out of her. I won't even mention the, ahem, "adult" kiss that she gave her father in one moment of the film, a scene which was more than just a little uncomfortable to watch.

Overall, this is one of the better Asian horror films I've seen in quite some time. It may not be truly original, but it's done with style, class, and a whole lot of talent, and those factors go a long way in making this a recommendation. Whether you're new to the world of Asian horror or a seasoned veteran, this is one of those rare must-see films. 10/10.
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Christopher #1: Christopher - added 12/24/2006, 02:43 PM
Fantastic ending. One of the few ghost flicks that had some thought put into it. Can't wait to see the American remake!
Chad #2: Chad - added 12/24/2006, 03:02 PM
"The Hollywood Reporter reports that Focus Features' new Rogue division has come aboard for the U.S. remake of the Korean horror hit Phone."

Won't have to wait long.
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