GORE IN THE STORE
THE CALL *
Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr.
Starring Lin Shaye, Tobin Bell, Chester Rushing.
Horror, US, 97 minutes.
Streaming on Shudder from July 15th
Streaming service Shudder has been vindicating its existence recently in an increasingly stuffed streaming marketplace with some truly impressive programming. To go along with its back catalogue of horror classics it has showcased a diverse array of new and exciting films such as FRIED BARRY, PSYCHO GOREMAN, the archival discovery of George Romero’s THE AMUSEMENT PARK and the documentary IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS PART II that continued its exhaustive look at 80’s horror cinema. In such an extensive catalogue however, there are bound to be some misses. THE CALL is such an example, a film so poorly executed on every level that it can easily be assumed to have been part of an extensive package deal and that now was as good a time as any to shuffle it out.
Set in the ever-popular 1980’s THE CALL tells the tale of teenage Chris, newly moved to a small town. Making friends with Tonya, tough guy Zack and his younger brother Brett he also runs into local sinister couple the Cranston’s, played by Tobin Bell and Lin Shaye. This elderly couple have been victimised by this group of teens over the years for a number of personal reasons which eventually proves too much for Mrs Cranston who then hangs herself. To their surprise they are invited by her widow to play a game, never a good idea when Tobin Bell’s asking, to each take a telephone call that will last one minute. If they complete the call, they collect $100,000 each. The catch is that Mrs Cranston is on the other end of the line.
Not a bad premise but when it takes over half of the films running time to get to it, including a fifteen-minute scene that feels twice as long where Bell explains the simple idea at great laborious length, it only highlights the inept and numerous weaknesses inherent in the script and direction. Whether it’s the lazy structure of the story that falls into repetition or the inept direction which includes several repeated shots and scene set ups, or the completely unlikable characters whose motivations come across as thinner than paper, THE CALL fails on every single level.
On one level it holds a certain fascination for the number of wrong headed choices it makes. Its amateurish nature lends it a somewhat unpredictable quality but that soon vanishes after the halfway mark. The actors struggle with the material, as nice as it is to see Bell and Shaye on screen together absolutely no attempt is made by the director to do anything interesting with them together or separately. It all mashes together into an interminable, dull mess that pulls the viewer down into a deep, dark pit of boredom.
Setting it in the eighties, for no reason – this is a film that feels like it was written for the present day, at least gives it an excuse for a nice synthwave score, but this is also abandoned, replaced by a generic score that matches the uninspired, lifeless action on screen. Next time you are on Shudder and see THE CALL highlighted, scroll on. This is the cinematic equivalent of cold calling; a complete waste of time that will do nothing but leave you annoyed.