Issue #206           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                 April 5th, 2004

Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by Poker Industries. Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

(2002; Buena Vista/Toilet Pictures)

Ha Ji-won  Eun Seo-woo  Ha Ji-won (left), Kim Yoo-mi

RATING: 7/10


The huge box office success of RING was an obvious influence on this South Korean production but it still manages to be an interesting and moderately suspenseful mystery/thriller. After penning a series of articles about a sex scandal involving children, tenacious reporter Ji-won (Ha Ji-won) is tormented with abusive phone calls and doctored e-mail showing her dead, mutilated body. On the advice of her editor, Ji-won decides to head out into the countryside to get away from it all and work on a novel. Friends Ho-jung (Kim Yoo-mi) and Chang-hoon (Choi Woo-jae) loan her their large old home and, soon after, Ji-won's computer goes haywire, displaying nothing but four numbers. Although Ji-won has changed her cellphone number, she still receives strange calls. One is inadvertently answered by Ho-jung's pre-school age daughter, Young-ju (Eun Seo-woo), and who (or what) she hears leaves the girl traumatised. Young-ju displays no physical abnormalities but suffers from unpredictable bouts of violent behavior and has an intense desire to be with her father. After receiving another call, Ji-won becomes convinced that they are not coming from a stalker and discovers that the two previous subscribers who had her new number are now dead.

Eun Seo-woo Ha Ji-won Ha Ji-won

Director Ahn Byeong-ki (HORROR GAME MOVIE) relies a bit too much on RING-style imagery (the dishevelled "Sadako look" is becoming as much of a cliche in Asian horror as the indestructible masked killers and "cat scares" of Western slasher pictures) but PHONE does extend an engrossing puzzle with a few unexpected components, such as Ji-won's connection to the little girl, which goes beyond simple friendship. The idea of an inanimate object being used for supernatural purposes by some otherworldly being is hardly novel but a cell phone is a marvellous choice. Its portability provides the writers with ways to easily insert it into scenes and the text messaging function of the phone seen here is also used in an inspired manner. While it is difficult for a designer piece of plastic to seem menacing, the score and sound design do manage to make its rather cheerful ring ominous after a time. The leads are generally fine but six year-old Eun Seo-woo is exceptionally creepy and, during the more intense sequences, displays the sort of focused conviction one rarely encounters in an actress this young. It is a remarkable performance and easily one of the best by a child in the genre since Linda Blair's "Regan" in THE EXORCIST (the two characters are similar in several regards). The scares are fairly mild and the stalker component is certainly its weakest aspect but the film is slick, well-paced, and engrossing. It will not make you forget its model but PHONE is a worthwhile addition to the cycle.


The packaging simply says "letterboxed" but the disc is also anamorphically enhanced. The 1.80:1 presentation looks splendid, with a virtually flawless image, deep hues, and very well defined contrasts. The Dolby Digital track forcefully punctuates the shocks and also delivers an expansive soundscape (DTS is also included). No supplementary materials are included. Those without all-region capability and wanting more than just a barebones presentation are directed to Starmax/Bear Entertainment's Korean 2-disc release, which is not coded, despite the Region 3 symbol on the case. That version is also 16:9 and includes a wealth of untranslated extras. Although PHONE was handled in Asia by Buena Vista, there are apparently no plans for an official North American release.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Intercontinental Video Ltd. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC -- Region 3 Only
  • Intercontinental Video Ltd #612572
  • Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS
  • Sync Sound Korean Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Korean, Traditional Chinese
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.80:1)
  • Macrovision Encoded
  • 102 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Hong Kong: IIB
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Singapore: PG (cut)
  • Contains moderate violence and horror, and some coarse language


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful