The Call is a movie that snuck up on me, which is rare since I'm such a movie hound, not many movies do. I think I saw my first trailer for it only a few weeks ago. Maybe that's because whenever Halle Berry stars in a film now, it's quickly ushered to straight-to-video or only lasts in theaters for about a week or two. The Call looked as if it was going to follow in suit with the rest of the movies that come out in the winter and be mindless, awful action slop released at a time of year when most people are too cold or lazy to leave the house. But so far, this movie has been the shock of the year for me in what my expectations were and the level I actually enjoyed it.
The film is about a 911 operator, played by Berry, trying to save the life of a teenage girl, played by Abigail Bresslin (Zombieland, SignsLISTEN TO MY INTERVIEW WITH HER BELOW) who's kidnapped and thrown in the trunk of a car. It's a simple plot and something that you'd typically expect to see on a plane or featured as an episode of CSI but I assure it's more than that. I'm glad this was such a victim of poor marketing because not knowing much about it made me enjoy it more. That being said, I didn't pay for it so I feel like I should tell more people what it's about so they do see it. It actually turns into an exciting and tense thriller-horror once we start to know the kidnapper more, which happens half way through the film.
The success of The Call falls mostly on the directing of Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Session 9), who is not given the respect he deserves in Hollywood. The man has a fairly unique, gritty, music video-like approach to filmmaking and gets disturbing results from it. Session 9 I still consider to be one of the most underrated horror films of the last 15 years. He guides us through The Call like a saner Oliver Stone would with aggressive editing and shots that are too close for comfort.
The other area the film exceeded my expectations was in the performances from Bresslin, who I've always reguarded as someone more gifted than her age let on, and Michael Eklund, who plays the serial killer. I don't expect you to know Eklund's name but he is one intense performer who knows exactly how to get under a viewer's skin. The last time I saw him was in a film called The Divide, which is about a group of survivors locked in a basement after the world has come to an end. It was such a disturbing film and he was the core source of it, that I still can't unsee some stuff that's in it. Although this is a far more mainstream film, his performance is still unnerving to watch.
The movie does still have its flaws. Halle Berry is an unlikeable, shallow lead lady and the rest of the script is fielded by vapid, cliche characters. Luckily, they don't occupy much of the screen time and Berry is present long enough to not overstay her welcome. The very final ending is so ridiculous that it leaves an unforgiving taste in your mouth and feels like it had a much better ending at one point until a Hollywood producer got their slimey mits on it, changed it and what we see is the result. But it's been a while since a decent psycholoical horror came out and made me feel tense, held my attention and simply for achieving that, I have to admit that The Call resued me from this winter movie hell. The Call (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+
Listen to Gavin's interview with Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Signs):