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Phone (2002)

Pon (original title)
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1:14 | Trailer
After writing a series of articles about pedophilia, the journalist Ji-won receives threatening calls on her cellular and she changes her number. Her close friend Ho-jung and her husband ... See full summary »

Director:

Byeong-ki Ahn
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ji-won Ha ... Ji-won
Yu-mi Kim Yu-mi Kim ... Ho-jeong
Woo-jae Choi Woo-jae Choi ... Chang-hoon
Ji-yeon Choi Ji-yeon Choi ... Jin-hie
Seo-woo Eun Seo-woo Eun ... Yeong-ju
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jeong-yun Choi ... Woman in elevator
Seong-hwan Jeong Seong-hwan Jeong
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Storyline

After writing a series of articles about pedophilia, the journalist Ji-won receives threatening calls on her cellular and she changes her number. Her close friend Ho-jung and her husband Chang-hoon invite Ji-won to move to their house in Bang Bae that is empty and closed. When the young daughter of her friends Young-Su answers a phone call in her mobile phone, the girl screams and changes her behavior, feeling a great attraction for her father and rejecting her mother. Meanwhile Ji-won receives weird phone calls and sees and listens to a teenager playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano. After investigating her phone number, Ji-won discovers that the original owner of the number, Jin-hee, had vanished and the two next owners of the number have mysteriously died in unusual circumstances. Her further investigation about Jin-hee discloses that the teenager was absolutely disturbed with her obsessive love for a man that had broken the relationship with her, and later she ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Last Call You'll Ever Get ...


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence/disturbing images and some sexual material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

South Korea

Language:

Korean

Release Date:

26 July 2002 (South Korea) See more »

Also Known As:

Phone See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$21,784,403
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Toilet Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Connections

References Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A bit confusing and meandering, but a success overall
11 April 2005 | by BrandtSponsellerSee all my reviews

Ji-won (Ji-won Ha) is a writer who has just published an exposé on men having sexual relations with under aged women. She begins receiving harassing calls on her cell phone, and pegs them to a man whom she sees stalking her. Strange calls continue despite Ji-won changing her number. She also temporarily moves in to her sister and brother-in-law's second home in another town, or another part of the same town. Her young niece, Yeong-ju (Seo-woo Eun), receives one of the first calls--primarily strange noises--on the new number, and shortly after, Yeong-ju begins acting very strangely. At the same time, Ji-won begins seeing ghostly apparitions, and she starts investigating the source of the harassing calls, which leads her to a girl named Jin-hie (Ji-yeon Choi) and her perplexing, frightening story.

As you can maybe glean a bit from the above, Phone has a very complex plot--often too complex for its own good. When all is said and done, the story is fairly standard thriller material, albeit with a couple interesting sub genre twists, but director Byeong-ki Ahn and crew do a lot of hedging to get there. There are a lot of subplots, such as the girl in the elevator in the opening scene, and even the male stalker, which are just completely dropped after awhile. Quite a few small scenes remain a mystery. About one half of the way through the film, the Jin-hie thread enters as yet another subplot, but eventually comes to dominate the film. While all of the material is captivating, even if it's a bit derivative, the result is too overloaded for its own good. Ahn had enough material here to fill three or four films, which is what he should have done instead of meandering around for half of this one.

On the other hand, the loose threads do help set a mood, and some of them become incorporated in what I called "subgenre twists" above. Even though Phone is eventually pared down into a thriller, Ahn sustains his other elements by making the catalyst behind the thriller plot more complex. There's a possession story occurring at the same time, as well as a ghost story. The possessed party ends up subsuming the stalker, shortly after the "stalker proper" disappears. As it might sound, these enmeshed ideas are not the easiest to untangle and comprehend while you're watching the film, at least on a first viewing, which is all I was able to give it so far. Like much Asian horror, it can help to try to read Phone more like a filmic representation of a dream (more a nightmare), even though in this case, I'm not sure that was the intention.

For better or worse, Ahn incorporates many elements that are becoming clichéd in Asian horror. There is a freaky young girl whom other characters come to fear. Water is a ubiquitous, symbolic motif. The antagonist has long black hair, which becomes associated at various times with the water motif/symbolism. There are "spooky elevator" scenes. The horror is fueled by a revenge subtext and is a metaphor for relationship/familial problems (it seems that much horror in Asia is due to a breakdown of traditional modes, or at least the traditional public representations, of relating to others, both romantically and otherwise). Ghosts pop up whom characters do not realize are ghosts. There are scenes showing social dilemmas at a school. A stairway plays a prominent role in the climax. The protagonist is a reporter. And of course, telephones are used as an instrument of the uncanny (perhaps one reason for this is that telephones--and especially in this film, cell phones--are one way that the non-traditional can suddenly intrude into one's life, particularly with unusual communicative modes).

Every one of the above elements can be found in at least a few Asian horror films prior to this one, but all since the mid 1990s. If you give bonus points for originality, or if you subtract points for a lack of the same, and you're familiar with a lot of recent Asian horror, you may be more disappointed with Phone than I was. I don't mind derivativeness in general, as long as a film employs its derivative elements effectively. For me, the familiarity of the themes and signifiers actually helped me sort through the plot and enjoy the film more. Ahn may be wearing borrowed clothes, but he wears them well.

One of Phone's biggest assets is its cast, especially Seo-woo Eun, who appears to be not more than about 8 years old here. She's simply amazing--Korea's answer to Dakota Fanning. She has to carry much of the film in its latter stages while she plays a complexly layered character; she does so with ease. In fact, the end hinges on a twist that is very difficult to see coming because of the skill of the cast.

I was also impressed with the cinematography and the production design. The sets and settings are imbued with symbolism, and even some overused elements--such as the perpetual rain, were given a nice twist when Ahn has it turn into snow instead. A small "flair" accessory can turn those old clothes into something unique, can't it? Like much Asian horror, Phone's more visceral aspects tend to be very understated--this is no Lucio Fulci gorefest. Still, what is present is introduced so it produces maximum impact. The violence, few deaths, and bits of blood that occur are keyed to enhance the drama, which they do extremely well. It's just too bad that the story couldn't have been tightened up more to enable a higher score. But I have hopes that I may like (and understand) the film more on a second viewing.


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