Don’t miss Arrow’s stacked celebration of a pre-smartphone trilogy of terror

Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From the cult and genre fare of Arrow Video to the artful cinema of Arrow Academy, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.

It’s no coincidence that my love of slow-burn horror and all things dread developed hand in hand with the J-Horror boom of the 2000s. Gore Verbinski’s The Ring had a hell of an impact on me, as someone used to the chamber horror of classic Universal Monster flicks and one wholly turned off by the creep of the genre towards Hostel, Saw, and other gory delights. I’ve since grown to love those, too, but the measured psychological torment that defined The Ring and its Japanese predecessor Ring was cinematic catnip for me. Shortly after, I caught up with Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on: the Grudge. That film blew up my previous sense of what rules horror could have, with its fractured, non-linear storytelling and ghosts who couldn’t give a damn about being understood or set free. By stripping away what comforts horror provided against their scares — tidy endings, solutions to supernatural problems, tackling disturbing real-world subject matters like trauma and societal loneliness — J-Horror forced me to wallow in what was truly terrifying…and I needed more.

The One Missed Call Trilogy came towards the end of the J-Horror boom, at a point where the genre phenomenon inspired similar, equally creative waves in China, South Korea, and other mainland countries. By then, the tropes that had made the genre feel so fresh had begun to show their fraying edges. American production companies stateside had begun to scrape the bottom of the barrel for adaptable properties. And on both shores, these shocking characters had become so familiar that they had become a source of comedy.

As a director whose Audition and other films predated the current boom, legendary auteur Takashi Miike had been a longtime witness to the ebb and flow his industry faced. It was only a matter of time before Miike tried his hand at horror as it currently stood — and the resulting One Missed Call would prove to be both a reflection on things as they were as much as it was a harbinger of how things would eventually come to be.

One Missed Call is a film that dares its audience to not take it seriously — like Ring, it features a final girl structure of quickly picked off characters, with all sorts of schoolgirl rumors and ancient legends in between. But it’s in this plain-faced depiction of rote J-Horror tropes that Miike begins an earnest exploration of substantive issues within Japanese culture: a suppression of talking about trauma, as well as a growing concern with society’s obsession with mobile technology. Similar themes had been broached before with the imploding families at the heart of Shimizu’s Ju-on and the internet specters of Kurosawa’s Pulse. But Miike’s alternating off-brand humor and absolute devotion to infusing popcorn films with mature subject matter revitalized One Missed Call at a time when the genre absolutely needed it the most.

The film was a box office success — and like any horror boon, sequels and remakes were soon in the offing. It’s true that One Missed Call 2 and Final don’t live up to the promise of the original film, but like Miike’s film these two are just as eager to play with J-Horror tropes to extremely entertaining ends. Both films take an international approach to horror, taking their stories to Taiwan and South Korea to ultimately show how universally terrifying their subjects are. They also aren’t afraid to skew more towards the melodramatic, both featuring love stories torn asunder by meddling villains from beyond the grave. While Miike’s contribution to the trilogy was a one-and-done effort, his playful sense of style infects the other two films like the ever-evolving curse at their core. While the scares across the whole trilogy may fall victim to diminishing returns, the One Missed Call trilogy provides an excellent distillation of J-Horror its best: silly yet serious, and altogether a new kind of spooky.


Arrow presents the One Missed Call Trilogy via 1080p HD masters provided by original distributor Kadokawa. All films are presented with their original 5.1 Stereo mix and a 2.0 Stereo downmix. Video and audio quality across the set is generally high — the murky shadows that mark the scary settings of each film are creepy without falling victim to black crush or being overly dark. Light instances of film grain and print damage throughout, but nowhere near to a distracting level — if anything, they add to each film’s time capsule quality, as horror films shot at the turning point between film and digital featuring cell phones just before the advent of smart technology.

Audio tracks for each film are clear and distinct, providing the creep factor with their sound design without letting individual elements diminish in aural importance. The English dubs created by Media Blasters haven’t found their way over to this set, which fits with the aesthetics of Arrow’s other J-Horror releases, but the completist in me still sees this choice as losing a bit of horror history.

Special Features

The 2-Disc Set splits up One Missed Call and related extras on the first disc, with the two sequels and respective extras on the second. Arrow has truly worked wonders in assembling the special features for this set, compiling archival footage, interviews, in-universe films, deleted scenes, and other extras from the film’s international releases in one place for the first time. Save for Mes’ commentary, all of the Special Features in the Trilogy are provided with English subtitles.

  • Essay by Film Critic Anton Bitel that recaps the recurring themes between the wildly different iterations of the One Missed Call trilogy, its place within the J-Horror canon as a series that was wholly influenced by canon titles Ring, Ju-on, and Dark Water and would go on to influence further films (including an ill-fated US remake).
  • Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin. Griffin’s artwork is also presented on a nice glossy cardboard sleeve for the package.

One Missed Call:

  • New Audio Commentary by Miike Biographer Tom Mes: Mes goes into Miike’s philosophy of horror; the place of horror light novels and films in Japanese culture; and the film’s postmodern, tongue-in-cheek approach to J-Horror tropes in the context of its unique position at the peak of the genre’s boom.
  • The Making of One Missed Call: An hour-long featurette on the film’s production. Miike is refreshingly candid about his approach to J-Horror, seeking to add more substance to superficial scares.
  • Archival Interviews: 15 minutes of EPK interviews with actors Kou Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, and director Takashi Miike.
  • Archival Interview with Takashi Miike: Taken from the previous Media Blasters DVD, this is a 20-minute interview covering One Missed Call’s inception, the challenges of Miike’s unnaturally quick approach to production, the novel trickery to the film’s visual effects, and his overarching philosophy towards telling ghost stories as it relates to the film’s antagonist.
  • Archival Premiere Footage from One Missed Call’s debut at the 2003 Tokyo International Film Festival, with a red carpet, pre-screening address, and Q&A by the film’s cast and crew. There’s also a religious ceremony for the film, as well as other promotional events and Q&As.
  • Live Or Die: In one of the disc’s most entertaining features, this is the in-film TV special that features a live exorcism of the film’s supporting actress. Viewers can alternate between two camera angles by pressing Enter on their remotes.
  • A Day with the Mizunuma Family: Like Live or Die, this is the in-film camera footage that reveals the truth behind the origins of One Missed Call’s antagonist Mimiko.
  • Alternate Ending: A super disturbing alternate ending for the film, one that’s just too…OK, no. This is a short film featuring One Missed Call’s publicity-loving exorcist as he gets his own death call. In a film series that’s light on overt Miike weirdness, the director delivers on his off-brand sense of humor with one dumb yet great joke that gives new meaning to the word deadpan.
  • Promotional Material: Theatrical Trailer, Teaser Trailers, TV Spots.

One Missed Call 2:

  • The Making of One Missed Call 2: A half-hour featurette featuring interviews with the film’s main cast and the production of the film.
  • Gomu: Like Miike’s alternate ending for the first film, this is a tongue-in-cheek short that focuses on Mimiko’s gig of killing her victims once their time is up.
  • Deleted Scenes: Easily excised moments accompanied by video commentary from director Renpei Tsukamoto.
  • Music Video for Aki’s “A Prayer for Love,” which closes out the film.
  • Promotional Material: Theatrical Trailer, Teaser Trailers, TV Spots.

One Missed Call — Final:

  • The Making of One Missed Call — Final: An hour-long featurette covering the film’s production and promotional tour.
  • Maki and Meisa: A behind-the-scenes featurette following the film’s two female leads while on the promotional tour for One Missed Call: Final.
  • Behind the Scenes with Jang Keun-Suk: A day behind the scenes of the film’s male lead, showcasing his jumping the hurdles of learning both Japanese and sign language.
  • The Love Story: A tie-in short film focusing on the budding relationship between the film’s two lead characters.
  • Candid Mimiko: A TV special that has Mimiko actress pranked by a series of J-Horror-related setups. Fun fact: the well from the Ring series is insured for quite a bit of cash.
  • One Missed Call — Final Theatrical Trailer.

The One Missed Call Trilogy will be released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on February 25th, 2020.

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The One Missed Call Trilogy — [Blu-ray]

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