ghost story

Phone (폰)
Made in: South Korea
Language: Korean
Director: Ahn Byeong-Ki
Starring: Ha Ji-Won, Kim Yu-Mi, Choi Woo-Jae, Choi Ji-Yun, Eun Seo-Woo
Year: 2002

Synopsis: An intrepid reporter named Ji-Won (Ha Ji-Won) exposes a number of sex scandals involving children, and helps put a number of criminals away. But when one of the suspects she's implicated starts making threatening calls, Ji-Won has her cell number changed.

Her sister Ho-Jeong (Kim Yu-Mi) and brother in-law Chang-Hoon (Choi Woo-Jae) offer their new but not-yet inhabited house as a place for Ji-Won to lay low. But even after Ji-Won has her number switched to an unlisted one, she starts getting a set of new, creepier calls.

One afternoon while accompanying her sister at an art gallery, Ji-Won's little niece, Yung-Ju (Eun Seo-Woo), picks up Ji-Won's ringing cell phone and starts screaming. Whoever (or whatever) called nearly scared the little girl to death. Although Yung-Ju recovers physically, she starts behaving strangely. She begins exhibiting disproportionate rage towards her mother (like Stewie from FAMILY GUY), and develops a weird Elektra complex towards her father.

At the same time, Ji-Won starts seeing the ghost of a mysterious girl whenever she passes by a reflective surface. Things get scarier, and our heroine starts looking into the history of her cell number. It turns out that all previous owners of the number died under mysterious circumstances (even though they paid their bills on time).

As Ji-Won's investigation deepens, she learns that the ghost is that of a murdered music student, Jin-Hee (Choi Ji-Yun). But the biggest shock is that the mystery hits more closer to home than Ji-Won first realized...

The Good: Although it seems to be just another one of those creepy Asian horror movies, Phone is pretty solid. All of the pieces of the story's mystery come together tightly in the end, and the major plot turns are believable.

Little Eun Seo-Woo does an impressive job as Jung-Yu, and convincingly plays the part of a possessed child when a lesser-skilled child actor would have come off as annoying or bratty.

The intense moments are well constructed, the scares definitely make you jump, and most of them are unpredictable. Many of the visuals are creative, and overall the story will have you guessing until the end.

The Bad: The only major part that bugged me was that there was no mention of anyone looking for Jin-Hee's body after she was killed. Other than that, most of my complaints are minor. Some of the scenes are awkwardly edited, and this makes some of the flashbacks unclear.

The first half of the movie isn't extraordinary, and moves a little slowly (no thanks to that loud, obnoxious ring tone!). The acting is decent, but I thought the actors could have been a little more expressive given the emotional turmoil they're subjected to. And finally, the fact that the movie was produced by a company called "Toilet Pictures" will most likely cloud your expectations.

Who would like this movie: You'll like Phone if you like Asian horror movies. Although many elements are familiar (i.e. the use of a phone as a scare tactic, ghosts with long hair, creepy children who scream, etc), it's an above-average ghost story even if it does seem trendy. As far as foreign films go, this one is pretty mainstream in terms of storyline and characters.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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