I was really skeptical of The Call when it first came out. It is produced by WWE Studios, which isn’t an instant vote of confidence for me. The studio has put out a series of films that I could take or leave (most of them, I would leave) and I wasn’t sure quite what to expect this time around. When I learned that Brad Anderson was involved, I decided to give it a chance and I was actually pleasantly surprised.
When Jordan, a 911 operator, takes a call from a young girl involved in a home invasion, it changes Jordan’s life forever. When the call is dropped, Jordan makes the ill-fated decision to call the victim back; but the telephone ring gives away the caller’s position and costs the girl her life. Six months later, Jordan gets a call from another victim of the same perpetrator; she sees this as a second chance and this time, she is determined to stop the killer at all costs.
It may not be obvious from the synopsis but The Call is similar to films like Buried and Phone Booth, in that the primary protagonist is stuck in a confined space, reciting lines into a phone. While The Call never achieves the level of greatness that Buried did, it’s not a bad film either. It’s entertaining; it wastes very little time laying the groundwork, and once the groundwork is laid, it kicks in to high gear and keeps going.
As far as the performances go, most of them aren’t bad. Halle Berry turns in a passable performance but the true star of the film is Abigail Breslin (Signs) as Casey. She spends the majority of the film on the phone, in the trunk of a car and is still able to carry the feature. It’s not easy to have the success or failure of a film riding on your shoulders and to have very little interaction with any other cast members makes it even more of a challenge. Breslin pulls it off pretty well, though. Ella Rae Peck comes on a little too strong as Casey’s friend Autumn. Her bad girl routine is a little too forced and makes her character appear very artificial. Fortunately, she’s only in the film for a short time and once she’s served her purpose, she doesn’t pop up again. Roma Mafia (Nip/Tuck) is particularly good in her supporting role as Jordan’s supervisor at the 911-call center.
The Call isn’t a straight horror film. It’s a psychological thriller with horror overtones. If you’re looking for a typical horror feature, you will be disappointed. There isn’t an exceptional amount of violence. Most of the carnage occurs off screen or is implied, rather than focusing on the brutality aspect.
What elevates this flick above some of the other films of its ilk is the fact that the extremely talented Brad Anderson directs it. Anderson is responsible for Session 9, which has been named one of the best horror films of 2000-2010 by a variety of genre film outlets. The Call isn’t nearly as good as Session 9 but it isn’t really trying to be. This is a film that sets out to entertain and on that level, it usually succeeds. Even thought The Call is really just trying to be a good popcorn flick, Anderson still brings a good level of suspense to it.
One of my chief complaints is that the killer’s motivation seems a little bit far-fetched. Though we get an explanation for why he does the things he does, it doesn’t really help the audience buy his rationale. Also, Michael Eklund, who plays the killer, doesn’t really do any favors to the role. But, in spite of that, the film is still mostly entertaining. If you can suspend their disbelief for 90 minutes, then you will most likely enjoy the film.
The Call is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s worth a rental. It’s not going to change your life but it is a mostly enjoyable film.
Director(s): Brad Anderson
Writer(s): Richard D’Ovidio, Nicole D’Ovidio, Jon Bokenkamp
Stars: Abigail Breslin, Halle Berry, Michael Eklund
Studio/ Production Co: WWE
Budget: $13 Million
Length: 94 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Psychological Thriller