Horror films throughout the years have presented a multitude of gateways to the other side many of which have turned out to be hidden in plain sight. From the TV in Poltergeist to the sewers in IT, movies have transformed everyday things into petrifying portals to the underworld.
Interestingly phones have featured several times as a way to contact demons and spirits whether its the 80’s phone box of 976-Evil or the mobile’s in the amazing portentous One Missed Call, and main characters have been called on to dial up the dead often times with terrifying results.
The Call plays on this concept serving up a spooky little story set in 1987 about some small town teens who unexpectedly encounter the supernatural. The tale revolves around Chris (Chester Rushing from Stranger Things and Monster Party) the new boy in town who falls in with the wrong crowd when the tenacious Tonya (Erin Sanders) takes him under her wing.
Tagging along with her and brothers Zack and Brett (Teen Wolf’s Mike Manning and Sloane Morgan Siegel) the gang take Chris to their favourite place, the Cranston’s huge creepy home, which they frequently visit to prank the old lady who lives inside who they believe to be a witch.
Blaming her for the death of Tonya’s younger sister the teens have waged a campaign of terror against the frail Edith Cranston (Lin Shaye from the Insidious franchise) who lives in solitude from the outside world with her husband Edward (Saw franchise star Tobin Bell) but this night is unlike the others as the perpetually perturbed pensioner comes out to confront the vengeance filled gang.
The next morning the youngsters receive some unsettling news and things become more sinister when they are all contacted by Mr Cranston who summons them to his home. It seems the old lady wants to play a game with the group as each are asked in turn to make a simple phone call. All they must do is stay on the line for 60 seconds but what they don’t know is who is on the other side.
Serving up a ghostly chiller that blends frights with drama and deep character development The Call, directed by Timothy Woodward Jr. and written by Patrick Stibbs, gives the audience scares and jumps while trying to expose the complexity of human nature.
Featuring two horror icons in one movie The Call is instantly elevated by the powerhouse performances of Shaye and Bell who as always deliver exceptional turns. As the tortured victim of the kids constant jokes and tricks Lin Shaye perfectly embodies a person pushed to the edge throwing herself over it when she embraces darkness and the occult.
As her stoic yet devastated husband Tobin Bell is great bringing the teenagers back to the scene of their crimes and forceing them to confront not only their actions but their painful pasts as one by one they make the call and are taken on a nightmarish journey into the unknown. Both older actors flip between benign and brilliantly menacing upping the fear factor no end.
Thats not to say the younger members of the cast don’t hold their own and Chester Rushing and Erin Sanders are especially good with all the teens playing characters who are far from what they seem. Feeling like a alternate take on Flatliner’s the kids of The Call end up far from how they started and our relationships to them also change as we witness what they have been through.
Quite theatrical and stagey at first the story becomes more filmic when we move into the dreamlike state on the other side of the line, a labyrinthine world which is filled with twisted versions of people from the past and hellish environments drenched in red light, blood and bad omens.
On the less positive side the retro setting and soundtrack seem immensely unnecessary as they have no relation to the plot or film as a whole and come across more of a manipulative cash in on the casting of a Stranger Things cast member and popularity of nostalgia for the 80’s than anything else.
Overall The Call is an average horror with two sensational icons in the cast doing what they do best making the movie a perfectly functioning chiller that delivers just enough entertainment to keep you on the line but not enough to make you want to call back.
Dazzler Media presents The Call on DVD & Digital Download 11th January 2021