Phone (UK Rating: 15)When it comes to Asian horror, Japan is often thought of as the best, with some of the most well-known releases out there. Despite that, South Korea is starting to step up more and more, with some amazing releases for every horror sub-genre, from the creature feature The Host, to the chilling thriller I Saw the Devil, through to the recently released superb zombie movie, Train to Busan. With so many Korean horror flicks to pick from, Cubed3 once again looks at a Tartan Asia release - a little ghost story from director Ahn Byeong-Ki called Phone.
Some things get lost in translation; for example, film studio names. As the opening credits begin for Phone and the familiar Buena Vista logo flashes on the screen, next a rather less familiar one takes its place… the logo of Toilet Pictures. It has to be hoped that it's not indicative of the quality of its contents...
Phone follows young journalist Ji-Won, introduced as quite the heroine, as with her latest article she is bringing some of the worst monsters out into the light, unearthing a sex scandal in her town by putting the spotlight on a ring of paedophiles, which includes some very powerful people. Obviously, so openly attacking these sorts makes her a few enemies, and Ji-Won soon finds herself the victim of threatening phone calls and a stalker is regularly close by. To try and escape until things cool down, she decides to hide out in her sister's second house. Her sister married a rich guy and they have a second home that's being left empty for when their daughter is old enough to have it. Along with moving house, Ji-Won decides to change her mobile number to get rid of the threatening calls; the new number, however, ends up receiving calls that are much worse.
It turns out that it has a dark history, with the previous owners all meeting grisly fates, one of which - a high school girl called Jin-hee - mysteriously vanished. A great deal of time is spent looking into the life of Jin-Hee and the troubles she had at school. The film tries to pull numerous plotlines together, and for the majority of the time it does so unsuccessfully, delivering a tale that feels confusing and, frankly, messy. Bouncing around from Jin-Hee's time to Ji-Won's and attempting to build up something of a murder mystery on top of the ghost story does not sit right. It's all rather clumsy, that is up until the finale. In the last hour or so of the film, a superb conclusion knocks the socks off the audience.
One of the biggest strengths of Phone is the child actress playing the young niece (the actress is aptly named Young). Child actors can so rarely capture the tone of such a movie, but here the performance is superb, and she manages to go from the happy young girl to evoking some truly scary moments. She really helps to make Phone much better than it otherwise would be.