The Movie Waffler New Release Review [DVD/Digital] - THE CALL | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [DVD/Digital] - THE CALL

the call review
Teens are offered the chance to win a fortune if they answer a sinister phone call.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Timothy Woodward Jr

Starring: Lin Shaye, Tobin Bell, Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Mike C. Manning, Sloane Morgan Siegel, Judd Lormand, Randy Charach

the call poster

Let’s celebrate Lin Shaye while we still can, yeah? Lin Shaye is brilliant. It pains me to write this, but just know that in the next 10 years or so there will be a rush of tweets bemoaning the great actor’s timely passing, a mass outpouring of social media sorrow; the kind which is maniacally lachrymose for a few hours - ‘Four Lin Shaye films. Choose one’ etc - before dissipating as abruptly as it began. Lin Shaye deserves better than meme-grief, especially in this imperial phase of her multifaceted career where she’s leaning into her age and status in stunning, harrowing roles like Room for Rent. I’ve always loved how undiscerning she is, too. Walter Hill, the Farrelly brothers, the worst sort of DTV dreck: Lin does it all. It would be great to see her in something prestigious too, just for the kick of it. But, who knows, perhaps Lin isn’t interested in that sort of nonsense. If I was an actor, hers is the sort of regular, committed career I’d want. What a woman.

the call review

Where does The Call fall on the Shayeometer? Written by Patrick Stibbs and directed by Timothy Woodward Jr., The Call is one of those horror films made in the last few years which is set in the '80s. No wait, come back! At least stay for the rather jolly and well put together opening half an hour wherein we meet our quartet of ill-fated teens. There is Chris (Chester Rushing), a dorky new kid who has arrived in town under a mysterious cloud. He is immediately befriended by Tonya (Erin Harding, in an instantly likeable and fun performance), all frizzy perm, heavy turquoise eye shadow and blowing pink bubble gum (I can’t really remember much about the other kids who make up their ersatz bubble - one is a bit of a bully, the other is his brother). There is an FM rock song playing and the lyrics include the phrases, ‘Tonight’s the night...we just wanna...rock and roll’. The Stranger Things audience, if it still exists, will be happy, at least, by the empty '80s stylings: in an amusement arcade a character says, ‘You wanna play Pac-Man?’ and the scene ends, as if the mere mention of one of the most famous video games of all time is punchline enough.

But at least it is fun; daft yes, but there’s an innocence in the filmmaking, in the naïve storytelling. If only the same could be said for when the film actually gets going. For shits and giggles, the gang decide to drive out to local oddbod Edith Cranston’s (Shaye) place and smash in the windows. Years ago, Cranston may or may not have been involved in the disappearance of Tonya’s sister, and, despite being exonerated of the crime (presumably: the lack of legal repercussions for her supposed involvement is handwaved by dialogue stating that she is rich and could afford big city lawyers- !) old lady Cranston has been persecuted ever since. After years of this, these bozos shattering her windows is the final straw and Cranston goes and kills herself while muttering incantations.

the call review

Suicide is always a terrible thing, but, come on The Call, we were just getting into Shaye’s performance: her sinister voice, her dark campiness, her genuinely unhinged moments (she really is our Vincent Price, isn’t she?). Then you whisk her away, leaving us with Tobin Bell to play her grieving husband. In the wake of Edith’s death, he gets the gang back together for one last job, calling the kids over to the Cranston house and informing them that he ‘wants to play a game’ (the weariness with which The Bell utters this line will break your heart). In a weirdly complicated and decidedly uncinematic manner of haunting, each of the gang must go upstairs in turn and answer a ringing phone. They have to stay on the line for one minute. If they all do this then they will receive thousands of dollars.

As implied by Shaye’s character initials, there is a propensity for an EC style romp of gory, pop-gothic payback. Problem is that when each of the group - a bunch who, up until now have been harmlessly fulfilling '80s teen tropes such as avoiding the principal and visiting the carnival - answer the phone they are sent into their own personal hells, which are all dark AF. Child abuse of both the physical and sexual kind, child abduction, a pregnant teen mum left to die in a crashed car. Jesus fucking Christ. It’s too much: too unpleasant, and far too serious an array of representations for this silly little film to cope with. It was only a few minutes ago we were chuckling at Pac-Man refs. Also, it is difficult to add up the constituent elements: what does the abuse of the brothers have to do with Edith Cranston? Isn’t roping in new kid Chris to this black magic retribution a bit much: he’s only been in town five minutes, Edith mate! It is as if the film is cut and shut from two different scripts. Tonya’s story does sort of tie in I suppose, but, no spoilers, after the last act’s witless atrocity the film just sort of gives in and the credits roll and you are left feeling slightly confused and a bit less happy than you did an hour before.

the call review

I still love The Call’s main name actor, and tbf, The Bell also adds gravitas to the project, but file this one under Lin Shayme. Best let this one ring out.

The Call is on UK DVD/Digital from January 11th.

2021 movie reviews