Susan Sarandon and Topher Grace Star in this gruesome thriller about disturbing religious murders committed in a sleepy small town.
The Calling is directed by Jason Stone and also includes minor roles from genre stalwarts Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist) and Donald Sutherland (Don’t Look Now). It’s an adaptation of a novel of the same name, written by Inger Ash Wolfe.
Detective Hazel Micallef (Sarandon) lives a quiet yet mundane life; living with her elderly mother (Burstyn) and being alcohol dependent to get through her day. Her average world is then shattered when she pays a visit to an ill neighbour only to discover she’s been brutally murdered. What follows is a series of equally horrible deaths around the area.
New to the town is police officer Ben Wingate (Grace) who aids Hazel in her investigation and a mysterious ‘doctor’ known as Simon (Christopher Heyerdahl) who is believed to be killing off a number of devout Catholics. Hazel consults Father Price (Sutherland) for further insight into the religious significance and discovers a twisted connection with some ancient beliefs of resurrection.
The Calling is a slow burner and a carefully crafted thriller that takes its time to reveal each of its layers. Mainly, its Hazel’s story. Sarandon does a phenomenal job playing the disconnected woman who faces her biggest challenge yet. She plays Hazel as straight-talking, headstrong and most importantly determined as she tries her hardest to uncover the mystery and links between the murders. Guilt is a prominent theme throughout that becomes more apparent in Hazel overcoming her internal demons as well as reasons behind the crimes.
Sarandon is supported the aforementioned cast who on the whole provide strong performances. Sutherland is the weakest actor in the film, proving unconvincing however his scenes are only minor and serve their purpose to unveil information vital to the case. Grace does well as the mysterious new officer in town with a tragic backstory, seeking solace in small town surroundings. He’s willing to take risks and compliments Sarandon’s role; together they play a believable working relationship. Burstyn plays the hindering mother wonderfully and provides some light relief amongst the film’s dark and sinister tone. It’s also amazing to have such a well-respected icon on screen.
The wintery setting creates a cold and chilling essence with the feeling that death is just around the corner. It also allows the opportunity for some beautiful cinematography and certainly takes advantage of that with fixed shots on the trees and snow. Everything feels very spacious representing an isolated community within the town. There’s some graphic imagery with detail to severe injuries lingered on that’s pretty nasty. It comes across as much more horrific than actually seeing the psychopathic ‘doctor’ committing them resulting in a powerful psychological impact.
The Calling is a well-acted and compelling if not slow thriller that keeps you gripped and wanting to know more as the plot unfolds. The only criticism is it becomes drawn out towards the end and doesn’t seem to pick up the pace. Some of it could have been cut down slightly.
For a thought-provoking, yet horrific chiller, check out The Calling.