Starring: Shannyn Sossaman, Edward Burns, Ana Clauida Talancón
Directed by: Eric Vallete (debut)
Written by: Andrew Klavan (“A Shock to the System”)

If “One Missed Call,” the first major release of 2008, is giving us any hint about what the new year is going to be like at the movies, stay away from the theater for the next 12 months.

A remake of the Japanese horror film “Chakushin ari,” “Call” follows a group of college students who are being killed off by a supernatural force inside their cell phones.

After the death of her friend Shelley, Leann Cole (Azura Skye) receives a call coming from Shelly’s phone. When she listens to the voice mail, she is startled to hear her own screams coming from the other end. She is also confused because the time and date for the message is incorrect. Her shrieks for help are coming one day prior to the date shown.

Soon, we find out the time and date given is the exact time and date of death of the person who receives the call. The pattern repeats itself as the technologically-advanced killer flips through the cellular phone book of its last victim and chosen another person to call.

As college students are picked off one by one in incredibly dull fashion, (including Ana Claudia Talancón of “El Crimen del Padre Amaro”), the phantom call finds its way to psychology student Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon), who has just witnessed the death of three classmates from the bizarre events.

Of course, no one believes her despite the uncanny coincidences in the case (stand-up comedian Margaret Cho makes a ridiculous cameo as a dumbfounded detective in these scenes). The only one willing to listen to her is Jack Andrews (Edward Burns), a detective whose sister was recently killed under the same peculiar circumstances as the other students.

With the time and date set for Beth’s death, she and Jack attempt to find the source of the calls. This leads them to the story of a hospital fire and a creepy little girl who looks like she was pulled straight out of “Children of the Damned.” The kid, who hasn’t spoken in months, holds a secret that could solve the mystery and save Beth’s life.

Full of primitive scares and a unexceptional screenplay, “Call” outdoes its already horrible presentation (the scene where a priest exorcises a cell phone is laughable) with pointless storytelling and mechanical special effects in its drawn-out ending. (Since “The Ring,” how many more times are we going to be tortured with those awful and overly-used stop-motion graphics?)

It’s agonizing enough to think about how much American-made horror films have diminished over the last decade. With “Call,” the evidence is rubbed in painfully.

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