Lin Shaye as Edith Cranston
Tobin Bell as Edward Cranston
Chester Rushing as Chris
Erin Sanders as Tonya
Mike C. Manning as Zack
Sloane Morgan Siegel as Brett
Judd Lormand as Harliss
Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr.; Written by Patrick Stibbs
The Call Review:
Tobin Bell has enjoyed a wave of success over the past 15 years playing games with morally corrupt souls in the Saw film while Lin Shaye has enjoyed newfound stardom as the malevolent spirt fighting medium of the Insidious franchise and now James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s godchildren have come together for the supernatural pic The Call and while it offers a new side to each performer that’s wonderful to watch and some chilling imagery, its story leaves a little wanting.
Four Friends. One Phone Call. 60 Seconds to Stay Alive. In the fall of 1987, a group of small-town friends must survive the night in the home of a sinister couple after a tragic accident occurs in The Call. Needing only to make a single phone call, the request seems horribly ordinary until they realize that this call could change their life…or end it. This simple task quickly spirals into terror as their worst nightmares become reality as they enter the realm of The Call.
From the opening moments, the film nicely sets up the film’s retro tone and ’80s setting, from period-accurate attire to killer tunes, but as we’re introduced to lead character Chris and his potential group of friends and love interests, the film immediately establishes that it’s going to be borrowing heavily from various horror movies tropes of the past, from the jealous boyfriend/group leader to the wavering love interest willing to flirt with Chris directly in front of her boyfriend without a care. It becomes very apparent who in the group the film is going to put a primary spotlight on leading up to and during the terror as well as who will more than likely survive and who will be quickly picked off.
That being said, however, the film is not without unlikable or unrelatable characters as “antagonists” Edith and Edward Cranston are both well-written and heartbreaking souls that audiences might have an easier time connecting to than the young victims-to-be. Shaye brilliantly brings to life all of the paranoia and torment of a woman having lost her mind following a public shaming from the local town and, though also proving to be a thoroughly enjoyable and haunting villain when displaying her evil side, is really easy to sympathize with and understand her anger and even want to root for her to fulfill her desire for vengeance. Much can be said in the same vein for Bell’s Edward, though very much like Jigsaw and other previous villains he’s portrayed he brings a more tempered and calculated approach to the role but also taps into the vulnerability and hurt he’s suffering from the untimely loss of his wife that proves compelling and moving to watch.
In addition to the nicely-written “evil” couple from Patrick Stibbs, Timothy Woodward Jr. lends an incredibly stylish eye to the proceedings that keeps some of its creepy-yet-familiar imagery feeling shocking enough to keep the energy going. Nicely incorporating a fish-eye lens for some of the more mind-bending or devastating of sequences throughout, Woodward finds a way to nicely balance the intimate feeling of its character-focused tale with the larger-scope supernatural world that shows a lot of promise for what he could do if given a larger budget.
Overall, The Call might lean on a lot of formula and familiar storytelling, with a dour and predictable ending falling flat, but thanks to some chilling imagery, two well-written characters and phenomenal performances from Bell and Shaye, as well as solid performances from its younger cast, it proves to be an entertaining enough ride for horror genre enthusiasts.
The Call is now available on digital platforms and premium VOD!