Thoughts on “The Call”

This is a solo horror movie this time, not part of any pack and so something that I saw lying around for an inexpensive price and decided that I wanted to try.  The basic premise here is that a new guy moves into a town in 1987 and joins up with a group of people who have a grudge against an elderly couple in town because she supposedly killed the younger sister of one of them.  They go to break the windows in their house, end up confronting her, she then kills herself, and then they are all called over to the house in the middle of the night by her husband who tells them that if they talk on the phone with the dead woman they’ll get $100,000 each.  They accept, and one-by-one they get sucked into a horror world where they are confronted by their greatest fears and failures.

When I first started watching the movie, I was actually hopeful.  It started out so well.  The movie hints at something in the guy’s past that could be related and he falls somewhat neatly into the group, and so they start developing things and relationships fairly quickly.  This is important in a movie that’s an hour and a half long.  However, things quickly go downhill, as other than the scene of the elderly lady’s suicide there’s absolutely no horror aspects for the first two-thirds of the movie.  This means that they have to cram in the horror aspects in the last half-an-hour, which means that they don’t have the time to set-up the psychological traumas all that well.  We understand them, but they don’t have the oomph that they could have had if they had spent more time letting us know about them.  It also means that each person is consumed by them remarkably quickly, which again mutes the horror aspects since they just don’t last that long.

The movie also fails to properly pay-off the things that it developed earlier in the movie.  The guy’s secret is that he got a girl pregnant, she wanted to tell their parents, he didn’t, she got upset and drove off into a rainy night and got into an accident that killed her.  He also rather pointedly didn’t throw a rock at the house.  You would think that these aspects would be used better, and that in fact the fact that he didn’t throw a rock would be used to have him get through the house and survive.  And he goes in third — before the girl whose sister was killed — and does make it out alive, with his former girlfriend professing love for him and telling him the secret of how to get out.  So, yay?  Except that he goes back for the girl whose sister was killed and tries to save her, and in a confrontation ends up killing the old woman’s husband, and then at the end ends up back in the horror world and this time his girlfriend is as confrontational as everyone else and he seemingly dies.  Now, it could be the case that the first time the old woman’s spirit — who claimed to the girl that the two of them were consumed by hate and revenge — had nothing against him but after he killed her husband she did, but when he escaped the first time she tells her husband that he’s escaped in a way that suggests he shouldn’t have, and the movie never makes that clear.  So it’s just incomprehensible and so the things that are set-up are not properly used.

What is set-up and paid off, at least in part, is that when they confront the old woman she asks the girl where she got her necklace, and it turns out later that it was a necklace that the old woman had given the little sister, and so that proves that the girl killed her own sister and was using the old woman as someone to blame for that.  The problem is that for the horror part and the constant harassment campaign to work the girl needs to be feeling guilty over killing her sister, but how the scene of the killing is presented she’s a complete psychopath and so unlikely to be feeling any such guilt.  The entire rest of the movie presents her as a bit rebellious but as a character that we’re supposed to like and feel sympathetic towards, including the scenes after that where she has to face her sister in the horror world (and gets killed there).  So the tone in her sister’s death clashes with the tone of the rest of the movie, creating a contradiction that was really annoying.

Also, while it’s billed as a callback to the 80s, the telephone angle is a huge anachronism.  It’s portrayed as being able to talk to the dead, and as explanation the husband says “Isn’t technology grand?” but no one believed that telephones could, in general, actually talk to the dead without some kind of supernatural influence.  “Dark Shadows” played off of having a phone in a grave, but that was due to a character being scared of being buried alive, not so that she could talk to people after she actually died.  So more explanation was definitely needed there, and that line only makes things worse, not better.

At any rate, for a movie that started off so promisingly it, it loses it all by taking way too long to get to the horror and not paying off the things they hinted at in the bulk of the movie when it wasn’t doing horror.  I can’t imagine watching this movie again.


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