Friday, May 28, 2010

"One Missed Call" and Vengeful Ghosts

(If you hate spoilers and haven't seen the old horror films One Missed Call, The Grudge, or The Ring you'll probably want to skip this post.)

Today I got around to watching the old, original Japanese version of One Missed Call, a horror movie that starts off with people receiving "one missed call" messages on their phone, dated a day or two in the future, with the message being the sounds of their own deaths. I found the first half pretty good but felt it fell apart in the last 30 minutes in terms of plot and consistency.

Execution of the idea aside, a central element to One Missed Call, and other more popular horror movies like The Grudge and The Ring, is the yuurei, 幽霊 the vengeful ghost.

While the ghosts of the dead can be cute in Western culture, a la Casper, yuurei in Japanese culture are bad news: singularly driven by revenge (The Ring), a desire for proper burial (One Missed Call), or simply strong, unresolved emotions (The Grudge), they often kill innocent bystanders or anyone who wanders across their path as well as those who wronged them. Whether or not you had anything to do with their death makes no difference: it's just plain bad luck on your part if you run across one.

Traditionally, they are usually female, most often show up between the hours of 2 and 3am, and are likely to hang around the site of their death.

In pop culture, the almost ubiquitous pale-girl-in-white-with-long-disheveled-black-hair is the 21st-century yuurei, though her look can be traced back to the famous 18th century painting to the right, one of the first popular representations showing the features associated with them today.

Painting: Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795) - "The Ghost of Oyuki"

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