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.

Try a Little Kindness or the Kindness of strangers

I was not going to do a post today. I have been doing on average two a day for a while now and thought, ‘what the heck, I can take a break now and then, can’t I?’ The obvious answer being yes as I don’t have to sing for my supper to any man or woman where my blog is concerned and I was a bit busy today trying to get my financial affairs in order.

I set aside an entire day to call the folks I owe money to and explain that the old solution was no longer viable and that I was having to re-do the whole thing. I found myself giving the “Reader’s Digest” version of my last year over and over. The amazing thing was that not only did it get easier each time but I found I was still able to laugh at my “overabundance” of bad luck last year.

I think the thing that made it that little bit easier to chuckle at my current dilemma was the kindness shown by each and every one of the people I talked to on the phone today. One young man took severe umbrage at the fact that my pension was going to be so tiny.

He was so upset that he began to search the internet for help for me and find numbers of people to call. I assured him that I was doing all that already, but he still felt the need to help. Now here’s the amazing bit; this young man works for a collection agency that took over my debt problem from couple of major credit card companies. The company responsible for making sure I pay the money I owe.

I was flabbergasted and touched. This fellows show of empathy and humanity really helped me; more than I can say or even try to explain. I thanked him for his concern and his help and offers of further help. I hung up the phone at the end of our business in a much better mood. I actually felt chipper (an old-fashioned word I know, but damn-it it fits) and gave thanks once more to a young man named Stuart who cared.

But that’s not all. Everyone I spoke to today reacted the same way. Each and every company I spoke to responded to me and my situation with a wealth of empathy and understanding and well wishes. I was complemented repeatedly on my ability to laugh at my bad luck and I had one or two other folks who also wanted to help by making sure I was speaking to the right people.

I had made these same phone calls in the beginning of December with the news that everything should be sorted out by now via an agreement written by a financial company. Unfortunately, before the middle of December everything changed when I found out that I no longer worked for the Ministry of Justice and was being medically retired. Once I received my paperwork verifying the result of my meeting with my number one governor, I decided I needed to call the debt charity folks and see what I could do.

These charity people were also very helpful and assured me that bankruptcy was not an option just yet. They explained that my circumstances were way too up in the air and that it would take the court at least a year to make a decision. They gave me great guidelines on what to do and a timeline to do it in. The helpful chap also gave me his personal phone number to contact him on.

Needless to say, I’ve had an uplifting of spirits in the last 48 hours and it is thanks to the charity folks and their positive attitudes and the brilliantly helpful and kind customer service representatives I spoke to today.

I sat here waiting for tea and I realised that the kindness shown to me today did not just surprise me, it shocked me. I thought of an old Glen Campbell song called Try a Little Kindness and it began a sort of loop in my head (it’s still playing now) and I then thought of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire and her “relying on the kindness of strangers.”

I then decided I had to post about my day and the unexpected delight of it. The kindness of these total strangers; people who did not know me and really only knew what I had told them. People that get these sort of phone calls all too often in these financially stressful times; probably so many times that they must tire of it. Yet the folks all offered help, well wishes, and most importantly a final message of intent.

The intent to provide further assistance if I need it.

I had a lot of calls to make today and I really dreaded doing it. But the positive and caring response I got from each company’s representative made the chore less difficult and a lot less embarrassing.

I’ll leave on a positive note and a thankful one. Thanks again Stuart and all you other folks who made an old man very proud to be part of the human race once again.