If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
THE CALLER asks the question: Can a movie centered on
menacing phone calls still work in a day and age when everybody’s got cell
phones with cute/whimsical ring tones, as opposed to the old days of the
comparatively room-shaking bells on stationary phones? The answer is yes, when
one such model is still present in an apartment the movie’s heroine moves into.
In THE CALLER, opening in limited release today from Samuel
Goldwyn Films, that apartment is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the
heroine is Mary Kee (Rachelle Lefevre from the first two TWILIGHT films). She
arrives there in the wake of a very non-amicable divorce from her slimeball
husband Steven (Ed Quinn), who’s more affectionate toward their dog than toward
Mary (coincidentally, a similar pooch is a point of contention in another
breakup in OUR IDIOT BROTHER, also opening today). Mary’s attempts to recover
psychologically and establish her own life are boosted when she clicks with
good-looking college teacher John Guidi—no surprise, since he’s played by
another vampire-franchise veteran, TRUE BLOOD’s Stephen Moyer—but are crimped
when she starts receiving mysterious calls on that old rotary phone from a
woman seeking someone named Bobby.
At first, Mary thinks they’re wrong numbers, or maybe crank
calls; there’s no one named Bobby there. Then it seems that the woman on the
other end of the line, Rose (the voice of DRAG ME TO HELL’s Lorna Raver), is
just lonely and needs someone to talk to. She claims that she, too, is in the
throes of a troubled relationship, so Mary might have found in her a
psychological soulmate. Director Matthew Parkhill, in concert with Lefevre’s
empathetic performance and working from a script by Sergio Casci, initially
establishes an affecting “relationship” between the two women, as Mary tries to
encourage Rose to find the empowerment that she herself is struggling to
achieve. The paranormal wrinkle is that Rose claims to be calling from 1979—and
the horror element comes in when the friendship sours and Rose reveals a nasty
streak. But if she is in fact communicating from over three decades ago, she
can’t pose an actual threat to Mary—can she?
Suffice to say that soon Mary doesn’t know who should be
feared more, Rose or the still-lurking Steven—and for a time, the movie doesn’t
seem able to decide either. While Parkhill and cinematographer Alexander Melman maintain a
consistent visual tone of gloom and impending menace, the story’s focus becomes
uneven around the second act, as the subplots duel when they should be walking
hand in hand. Speaking of which, the burgeoning romance between Mary and John
has its awkward moments as well—from the dialogue in their first encounter to
the fact that, after he enthusiastically offers an explanation for the time
paradox in one scene, he acts like a disbeliever in another that follows. And
the music by Unkle and Aidan Lavelle tries way too hard to deliver the spooks
and accentuate the jump moments.
For all that, THE CALLER slowly but surely begins to weave a
spell as the true nature of the peril Mary faces comes more into relief. It’s a
clever conceit on Casci’s part, one that leaves Mary truly helpless to stop it,
and it’s accentuated by Raver’s line deliveries, as she proves she doesn’t need
a gypsy accent—or to even be visible—to be menacing. While the manner in which
the plot plays out requires that the nastiest developments also occur
offscreen, Parkhill makes the situations just as scary as if Rose were able to
actually show up to physically terrorize Mary. Crucially, he makes you believe
in the fantastical premise by grounding the rest of the movie in reality, and
tautly executes the twists and turns in Casci’s scenario. And even though it’s
never foregrounded, there’s an extra element of tragedy to the fact that, in a
way, Mary herself helped encourage Rose’s transformation into malevolence.
THE CALLER is one of those movies that sneaks up on you, in
part because for a while, it seems like you can tell just where it’s going to
go, and the supporting characters don’t seem like they’re going to be any more
than exactly who they appear to be from their first scenes. In some cases,
they’re not—but when their ultimate roles in the story are revealed, the
payoffs still get under your skin. The movie may seem like it’s going to be a
generic domestic thriller at the start, but by the time it reaches its
conclusion, it has ventured into some pretty uncompromising places.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment