I love this movie. Granted, I've got about seven hundred more words to elaborate on that but, yeah. This movie's pretty great.
I don't know what it is but the last few months I've accidentally found myself watching a lot of dramas masquerading as horror films. While they haven't exactly been 'bad' the experience has definitely been oppressive. I live for stuff more on the fantastic side, stuff with dynamic, candy-colored lighting, a charged soundtrack, likeable characters with big personalities and a really, really good hook. After that kind of slog, it's such a relief to see The Call from Timothy Woodward Jr. and freshman screenwriter Patrick Stibbs more than deliver on those hallmarks!
First off, if you're like me, you might be a little wary of the 80s setting. I of course love 80s horror and have been HUGE into Synthwave the last couple of years. Lately though, when a film goes for straight period 80s the results have been cringey. A Synthwave aesthetic is one thing (more of that, definitely) but a lot of these projects bludgeon the audience with Rubik's cubes until their skulls are Simply Red pulp. I was worried. But aside from the opening high school scene and another at an arcade, the film's setting is rarely brought up. It feels more like Ti West's The House of the Devil in that regard with a few dashes of early Nightmare on Elm Street entries and the criminally overlooked Hell High.
We open on newly transferred high school student Chris (Chester Rushing) who immediately runs into magnetic badgirl Tonya (Erin Sanders). Chris is a bit haunted and struggling with a checkered past (something he and Tonya have in common) but he tries to be a genuinely good guy. This notion is challenged, though, when Tonya and her friends Zack and Brett (Mike Manning and Sloane Morgan Siegel) rope him into harassing the rumored witch at the edge of town Edith Cranston (the always reliable Lin Shaye) who supposedly killed Tonya's little sister Laura many years ago. After a particularly gut-wrenching episode, Edith sadly hangs herself.
But...that's not the end! The four teens are later summoned to the Cranston home by Edith's widower (Tobin Bell). It seems despite their constant intimidation, Edith included them in her will. All they have to do to claim their inheritance...is make a phone call to Edith's grave! Yes, Edith Cranston was buried with a telephone. And if each member of the impromptu gang can stay on the line for one minute they walk away with $100,000. I won't go much further than that but, obviously, things get crazy.
Whenever I'm writing something I always ask myself, “did I do everything I could with this concept?” The Call 100% does (well, maybe 90% but still good)! I've got a couple nitpicks I can't go into because of spoilers but overall this is a solid, enjoyable flick. Jeffrey Reddick was one of the producers and, while he didn't contribute to the script (as far as I know), you can really feel his influence, particularly with the multi-layered characters. Of special note are Zack and Brett with Sloane Morgan Siegel delivering a real standout performance. Both actors are incredible, though, and are able to deliver palpable sympathy for people who would be irredeemable in lesser hands. Erin Sanders does a great job of keeping you guessing with only a few loaded facial expressions and after this film I hope to see Chester Rushing take on more lead roles. Everyone is so talented! Hell, we even get Super Megaforce Power Ranger Ciara Hanna popping in for a cameo (that's the one where they were pirates, you know).
The Call deals with some pretty heavy stuff, but like Annabelle Comes Home or the films it draws inspiration from it never gets bogged down in misery. It looks nice. The characters are fun and interesting. The concept is fertile and hopefully has room to expand in a sequel. It's one of the few films I actually went out to buy after this review! But hey, I'm just some guy. If you'd like to decide for yourself, it's streaming on Shudder as of 7/14.
Normally this is where I'd make some flippant remark or needlessly shit on Heaven's Gate director Michael Cimino, but The Call's heartfelt message of not harassing elderly dead people has left me in such a good headspace I'm going to...um...not...do that.
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