End Call (2008):One Hell of a Phone Bill

Kiyoshi Yamamoto (who is perhaps better known as the cinematics director for the video game Dragon’s Dogma) directs this low budget horror film as a languid and lackadaisical urban myth in treacle.

The film starts with a group of four friends talking about a “special” phone number. If you call the number on your mobile phone the devil will grant you a wish. The only price you pay is that the amount of time that the phone call takes is deducted from your life. It sounds too good to be true.

And it isn’t.

The real price comes before the end of your life. Each girl gets a mobile phone bill that runs around 15 thousand pounds. None of them can pay this exorbitant fee and one of them (Mako) starts working in the sex industry to earn the money.

Mako’s boyfriend Sakamoto has found out that she is working in the industry and asks best friend Dijimo and Mako’s friend Mai to find out why. Mako is at work when she is told that she needs to see one more client before her shift ends. She goes down to the room and finds it is her lecherous teacher Jojima (who likes to fondle his female students and give them his website details) and she is horrified.

Jojima attempts to blackmail her into servicing him and she kicks him in the crotch and runs out. Later Mai meets her in a public toilet to give her a jacket. Mai asks about the huge phone bill and Mako says that Mai can’t understand; her family is well-off and Mako has to degrade herself to pay the bill.

Teacher Jojimo drooling over Ryoko.

Tragically, the reason for the phone call was that Mako wanted Sakamoto as a boyfriend, now that he has found out what is going on, he leaves. Mai never hears from Mako again and she is terrified that Dojimo will find out  she used the number to get him as her boyfriend.

Out of the group of five friends, one (Mako) disappears and another (Ryoko) kills herself after her boyfriend leaves her to date Mai. Mai has also got a huge phone bill and Ryoko’s boyfriend as a result of her phone call. Mai tell Dojimo about the phone number and the resulting big bill, but not about her phone call or wish.

Urukawa is the first of the group to use the number and she asks for freedom, which she gets, but not how she wants it. After an argument with Mai, she goes to the library to research this number. She bumps into Dojimo and they look together. He finds an old newspaper article saying that this same thing happened ten years ago.

All the girls who called this number died; either by suicide or illness and accidents. He says it sounds like an urban legend. He also finds out that the same thing happened again ten years later; each time 10 people die after ringing the number.

The movie ends with a twist, but by the time you get there, you might get confused.

The film is patchy and despite the promise of the story; the low-budget, poor acting and spotty continuity detracts from the impact of the film. The sound, especially the ADR, is very poorly done; as though the dialogue has been dubbed.

I’ve watched the film twice now (both times on Netflix) and I understood better the second time around what was really going on. It is an interesting film and worth a look, but it is nothing to write home about. It obviously did not make a big splash when it was released in 2008 as IMDb has only the absolute minimum of information about it on the site.

Not surprising considering the amount of things that are wrong with the film. If your attention wanders for even a minute, you will lose track of what is going on. There is not enough action to keep you glued to the events on-screen and the pay-off is minimal at the end. It would have been interesting to see what a difference a bigger budget would have made to the film.

End Call is not the best example of J-horror out there but, nonetheless, it is hard to stop watching it. More of a curiosity than a truly scary film the basic plot is more interesting than the overall presentation.

I will say this though, if there was such a number to call? You’d wind up paying one hell of a phone bill.

Urukawa daydreaming of how much better the film would be with a bigger budget.

Rise (2007) Drink Like an Egyptian

Rise: Blood Hunter

Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez and starring Lucy Liu and Michael Chiklis, Rise was Gutierrez’s third time at bat as a director. Despite the talented cast and taut storyline, Rise on it’s release got a pretty poor reception. It received a 33% from Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.0 on IMDb.

Lucy Lui plays Sadie Blake a reporter who specializes in doing undercover work and showing the ‘underbelly’ of society.

She gets a tip from a colleague who works as a computer ‘Hacker’ and he has traced a reference to a Goth Vampire Cult that is meeting in Korea Town.

Sadie decides to follow up the lead. When she reaches the address of the meeting place, it is deserted except for the blood that adorns the floors and walls.

She is knocked unconscious by Bishop’s servant Poe (Mako in his last live action role) and taken to the leader of the vampires Bishop (James D’Arcy) who questions Sadie and then with the help of Eve (Carla Gugino) rapes, tortures and murders her.

She wakes up in a drawer in the morgue. She realizes pretty quickly that she is now a member of the un-dead. She leaves the hospital and eventually finds her way to Arturo (Julio Oscar Mechoso) who is also a vampire.

Julio Oscar Mechoso in January 2009

Sadie explains that she wants to kill Bishop and Arturo agrees to help, it appears that he and Bishop are in some sort of power struggle.

While tracking Bishop down, Sadie gets arrested by cop Clyde Rawlins (Michael Chiklis). Rawlins lost his daughter to Bishop and his life has been all but destroyed by this event.

rise_blood_hunter
rise_blood_hunter (Photo credit: perry_marco)

Sadie finally convinces Clyde to help her take Bishop down. Clyde agrees and the two work together.

I enjoyed this film a lot. There were areas that were a bit vague  or not explained very well, but the sheer speed of the film and its action made up for this.

I liked Lucy Lui’s character as well as Michael Chiklis’s. I also like the ‘Egyptian’ looking small knife that the vampires used to cut their victims. It made me think of the Ankh symbol used by the Egyptian vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) in The Hunger (1983).

I love good vampire films and to me this jumped into the ‘top twenty list’ of my favourites. It is worth a watch just to see Mako in his last action role.

Mako Iwamatsu