From the cursed video cassettes of Ring to the CCTV cameras of Dark Water and the spooky internet connections of Kairo, techno-panic is the big theme of current Asian horror. In Phone, the high-tech cycle peaks with a preposterous story about a reporter who's stalked by supernatural forces through her mobile. SIM cards, top-up vouchers, and dropped signals may not sound very scary, but once you've seen Phone, the Moonlight Sonata ringtone will never sound the same again.
After penning a controversial article about sex scandals, Ji-won (Ji-won Ha) is plagued by a series of menacing calls. Even when she hides out in an isolated country house (never a good move) and changes her cellphone number, the increasingly spooky calls keep coming. When her best friend's six-year-old daughter Young-ju (Seo-woo Eun) answers the phone, the little girl is possessed by an evil spirit that turns her into a scowling, foul-mouthed brat with an unnerving habit of snogging her daddy.
"THE PLOT BARELY MAKES SENSE"
There's so much going on in this film, it's no wonder the plot barely makes sense. It opens with a psycho-killer, then morphs into techno-panic, then kiddie horror, and finally a ghost story. Every scene has been soaked in menace till it drips off the screen, but what it's supposed to add up to is never quite apparent. What is clear is just how derivative it is. The influence of Japanese horror is everywhere to be seen, from the lock of black hair that emerges from a kitchen tap, to green faces staring out of mirrors and the chilling 'brrriiiing' of the ghostly mobile phone.
Coasting by on its well-oiled plot mechanics and a genuinely disturbing performance from little Seo-woo Eun, Phone may be a rather unmemorable addition to Asian horror, but you'll be far too spooked to hang up before it's over.
In Korean with English subtitles.