PHONE. 2002. TARTAN ASIA EXTREME. DIRECTED BY AHN BYEONG-KI. STARRING HA JI-WON, EUN SUH-WOO, CHOI WOO-JE AND KIM YU-MI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I really enjoyed this Korean supernatural horror film. It’s described as ‘top-notch horror’ on my DVD box and, while it’s not the scariest film I’ve ever seen in this genre, it’s still pretty damn good. Naturally, there’s what I call a Little Grudge/Ring Girl in it, going around the place spooking everybody with her long poker-straight black hair all over her face, always popping up when you least (or most!) expect her. Yes, it is possible to learn to recognise and read the signs, haha.
The film has, in fact, been compared to Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, or THE RING (1998) and his other big success, DARK WATER. It’s also been described as being on a par with Takashi Shimizu’s JU-ON (THE GRUDGE), which some film buffs consider to be the most frightening movie in this particular genre.
God, I love Asian horror. Being introduced to it by my best mate was like discovering a whole other layer to the multi-layered onion that is horror. A strange analogy, perhaps, but hopefully you can see what I mean.
Any-hoo, let’s get straight onto PHONE. Ji-won is a beautiful (well, all the women in these films are stunningly beautiful, I’ve yet to see an unattractive Asian movie actress, haha!) investigative reporter, right? She’s obliged to go on the lam when a sex scandal she’s responsible for busting wide open makes her immediate circle too hot to hold her for a bit.
Two friends of hers, a married couple with a sweet five-year-old daughter, offer her the use of their second home. At least, the hubby does. Wifey, oddly enough, doesn’t seem too keen. Ji-won is delighted to have somewhere to hide out, although the huge empty house is as creepy as hell and Ji-won keeps getting these weird phone calls from a number she doesn’t recognise.
Things get really messed-up when her friends’ little daughter answers Ji-won’s phone one day by accident and is horribly traumatised by whatever- or whoever- she hears on the other end. From this day on, she acts like a child possessed. She’s aggressive, scary and behaves in an inappropriately sexualised way towards her father, who seemingly hasn’t a clue what’s going on.
When a freaked-out Ji-won discovers that the two people who had her phone number before her each came to bad ends, she does a bit of digging to try to find out who owned the number originally. That seems to her to be where the evil’s coming from, see? When she gradually pieces the story together, it’s a fantastically thrilling, heartbreaking tale of adultery, secrets and lies and sexual misuse of power bordering on paedophilia.
Can Ji-won find a way to save the little girl (who came from her donated eggs, by the way) from the evil that threatens to take her over completely? Will the guilty ones be brought to book or will the sins of the father (notice I didn’t say fathers…?) be visited on the child with deadly results? You’ll have to watch the film to find out, folks. And I do recommend that you watch it. It’s terrific.
Little Eun Suh-woo’s performance as the possessed child has been lauded as being exceptional for a five-year-old nipper. It’s been hailed as being on a par with the performances of other possessed children in horror movies: Linda Blair’s in THE EXORCIST, Danny Lloyd’s in Stephen King’s/Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING and Heather O’Rourke’s in POLTERGEIST. That’s some pretty exalted company to be in, so I’d say that little Eun Suh-woo has a lot to be proud of.
The film didn’t have as many spectral visitations as I’ve come to expect from this type of film. In some Asian horror movies I’ve seen, Little Grudge/Ring Girls are grabbing your hand when you reach into the bath to pull out the plug, they’re showing up in the bathroom mirror when you wipe the steam off of it, or they’re standing behind the wardrobe or cupboard door when you pull them open or closed.
Not in this film. Ghostly visitations are kept almost to a minimum in this one so there aren’t as many jump-scares. Maybe the film-makers thought that less was more. Sometimes it is. Me, I would’ve liked a few more scares. When I stick a horror film in the old DVD player, I expect to be scared witless. (Trust me, it doesn’t take much.) Other than that, though, PHONE is a great watch. Enjoy it. Maybe you should put your PHONE on silent first, though. You don’t want to be interrupted…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY