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Korean director AHN BYUNG-KI's excellent, if not mainstream horror movie does for portable cell phones what the equally enjoyable Japanese RINGU (aka THE RING) film did for mysterious video cassettes and televisions. And it does it VERY well considering that THE PHONE is the first Korean motion picture to be fully funded by the American Hollywood movie machine, more specificly, DISNEY BEUNA VISTA (!). But wait, hold on, I know what you're thinking... "Disney? And horror movies? What's up with that?! That kind of combination can't be good, can it?!". But surprisingly, it is, EVEN if THE PHONE is rated an eyebrow raising PG. And not only that, it's certainly reminiscent (if not sometimes derivative) of several other recent Asian "Spooks & Spirits" horror movies such as HIDEO NAKATA's "other" film DARK WATER or KIYOSHI KUROSAWA's own KAIRO (aka THE PULSE) or JOUJI "George" IIDA's THE SPIRAL (the "unofficial" RINGU sequel). None the less, I think THE PHONE delivers on it's promise to give the viewer an eerie supernatural spectacle and it tries it's damned best to go it's own way with style and story. And with a mouth watering bevy of Korean sweeties dancing around the film, often splattered in blood, the movie gets my big "Thumbs Up" for it's visual stimulation and celluloid scares.
THE PHONE's story... our main star, Ji-Won (played by the oh-so cutesy actress HA JI-WOEN) is a young tabloid journalist who is the essential key element in busting a wealthy fella's child pornography ring. He soon starts to harass her by making threatening phone calls and sending visually disturbing e-mails which includes her likeness being murdered onscreen. Ji-Won eventaully decides to change her cell phone number (this is when IT starts) and her close friend Ting (played by the sophisticated and down right gorgeous actress KIM YOU-MI) who's married to high profile business fella, Chang (actor CHOI WOO-JAE) arranges for her to crash at their vacation home in another township until the stalker's trial is over.
Hoping that everything's going to be alright now, Ji-Won is alarmed when she starts to receive strange calls on her new cell phone number. She believes it's the stalker again, who somehow must have gotten her number, until one call is picked up by her friend, Ting's young daughter Ying (just excellently played by the five-year old actress EUN SEO-WOO). At the time, we (as in the audience) have no idea what the message she received was but the little girl starts to scream and later, begins to show signs of extremely deranged behavior and an unnatural sexual attraction towards her father. So much in fact, that she's almost willing to kill her own mother out of jealousy to have her "man". Now that's pretty fucking nasty if you think about it?!
During this time, Ji-Won continues to get the strange phone messages but is now starting to see bizarre and creepy apparitions of a strange ghostly girl in black with hair dragging the floor (an image made famous from THE RING movies). She soon puts two and two together and discovers that all of the previous owners of her new cell number have been mysteriously murdered. She proceeds to investigate further and this leads to the proverbial "Shit Hitting The Fan". And that takes place during the last half of the movie where it's broken up for us into two segments, one with flashbacks of what happened back then and one where we pick up with what happens now. So, that's about it for this review without revealing too much. Hopefully, THE PHONE will even have you guessing how everything's gonna work out in a surprise ending that I didn't really see coming.
So, as you can expect with movie-giant Hollywood backing it up, THE PHONE is high gloss, eye-candy with audience-friendly scariness in which you could have easily replaced the Korean actors with an American cast without missing a beat and made mucho dollars here in the USA from it, no knock on the Asians however. THE PHONE is a mainstream effort for sure and most likely aims to take in a wide variety of international viewers, especially those already familiar with the VERY popular RINGU film. But even though the scrumptious gals in the flick are extremely tasty and always a pleasure to see caught in the clutches of a life and death struggle involving rich, red blood, I just can't say that THE PHONE is a "Must See" movie by any means. But rather, it's a highly recommended viewing for fans of the Oriental ghost genre. Now don't get me wrong, as I said, there are certainly some fresh and original ideas and material here, but for the most part, you've probably already seen this kind of thing before so my advice is to just sit back with some chow and groove to Asian spooks doing their spooky supernatural wackiness.