Phone (film, 2005)


From SFX 127.

THREE STARS

2002/15/140mins

Director: Byeong-ki Ahn

Starring: Ji-won Ha, Yu-mi Kim, Woo-jae Choi, Ji-yeon Choi, Seo-woo Eun

Anyone who watches the Korean Phone is going to compare it with Ringu. That’s not to say that Phone is some kind of hastily cobbled together cash-in, wherein ghosts use gadgets to wreak havoc on the world of the living. Korea and Japan pump out plenty of horror movies, but were it not for the success of the now-seminal Ringu, then I doubt we’d be seeing this film in the West at all.

Ji-won is a journalist who has finished an expose on businessmen seducing schoolgirls. One of these now ruined men gets her mobile number, forcing Ji-won to change her number. Far from solving her problems, this makes things worse, as the spook switchboard starts diverting phone calls from the other side to her. When her niece, Yeong-ju, listens to one of these, she starts to act strangely. Worse, everyone else who has had this number before has died.

So far, so simple, but Phone soon slips into a murky world of sexual betrayal, dark family secrets and love-maddened teenagers. To its credit, it avoids being confusing as it does so, even though its dependence on flashbacks sometimes leaves you chronologically disoriented.

Phone is not comparable in terms of shocks or tone to The Ring or Dark Water, but more akin to a Hollywood chiller-thriller like What Lies Beneath, equally failing to deliver any real frights. In some respects it’s like a British movie, where good performances (in this case, a remarkable turn from child actor Seo-woo Eun), nice direction and slick production can’t make up for a slightly under-endowed story. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t see it remade in the States.

Did you know?

27 year-old Ji-won Ha uses her own name for the character in this film, though she’s sometimes credited as Hae-rim Jeon. Of all the cast, she has had the most film roles – eight – only one of which besides Phone, Gawi, has been a horror.

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