The Caller

The Caller


Reviewed by: David Graham

Edgar Allan Poe meets The Twilight Zone in an initially intriguing but ultimately maddening would-be chiller. Despite appealing leads and the subtle creepiness of the escalating phone-calls, director Matthew Parkhill can't make the pieces fit, leaving the audience hanging in frustration rather than in suspense.

Newly-divorced student Mary (Rachelle Lefevre) thinks she may have landed on her feet with her new apartment, but a restraining order has failed to deter her ex from making impromptu house calls in the middle of the night. Things improve for her when she strikes up a friendship with her kindly gardener (Luis Guzman) and a potential romance with a hunky lecturer (Stephen Moyer), but a series of bizarre phone calls from a mystery woman start to stoke her paranoia. She starts to suspect that her new home may harbour terrible secrets, as ghosts from the past threaten to intrude on her present.

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Bringing together Twilight's Lefevre and True Blood's Moyer must have looked like a surefire way to put bums on seats, but sadly the best efforts of these charismatic performers are wasted on such pedestrian material. Mary's situation with her ex gets the film off to a reasonably riveting start but this just becomes annoying due to how completely ridiculous her refusal to involve the police becomes, while Ed Quinn's performance as the psycho ex-hubby is laughably poor.

Guzman is also somewhat wasted, an appealing presence who is refreshingly not used as a red herring, but his exposition-heavy scenes are a little insulting to the intelligence (how long is he meant to have been working there, since he was in nappies?).

The set-up is reminiscent of Hammer's recent thriller The Resident, but Parkhill's overly spartan location and uninspired direction fail to conjure up a suitable atmosphere of menace. The romance between the leads is strangely devoid of chemistry too, despite a surprisingly racy love scene. The film's most effective moments are the perturbing calls themselves; taking a cue from the likes of the original versions of Black Christmas and When A Stranger Calls, Parkhill manages to keep us on edge by gradually building the unseen character as the intensity of the dialogue escalates.

Lorna Raver follows her tour-de-force as the evil crone in Drag Me To Hell by supplying the voice for the titular villain, and again shows she knows how to be darkly amusing and genuinely frightening, even in disembodied vocal form alone.

Ultimately though, The Caller is watered-down horror fodder that tries to throw its audience with an implausible twist that seems to come from another film altogether. It's an original idea that may have worked had it been further developed, but coming two thirds of the way through it's a bit of a slap in the face.

Its early revelation robs the climax of much of its surprise and it's not left close enough to the end to be forgivable for those who won't buy it (and that will be most of the audience). It's a shame, because The Caller begins as a serviceable potboiler, and could have been outrageously enjoyable had it flipped out a little more with its audacious premise, but it winds up an underwhelming hodge-podge of half-baked ideas and under-cooked thrills.

Reviewed on: 07 Jul 2011
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When the past comes calling, don't pick up the phone...
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Director: Matthew Parkhill

Writer: Sergio Casci

Starring: Rachelle Lefevre, Stephen Moyer, Lorna Raver, Ed Quinn, Luis Guzmán

Year: 2010

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: Puerto Rico

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