28th Jun2019

‘Crisis Hotline’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Mike Mizwicki, Pano Tsaklas, Corey Jackson, August Browning, Christopher Fung, Christian Gabriel, Michael Champlin | Written and Directed by Mark Schwab

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It’s very rare these days that I go into movies totally unprepared, yet such was the case with Crisis Hotline… I had no idea this direct to DVD title was, in fact, an LGBT horror and one that – outside of its horror premise – actually explored the struggles of an LBGT male whose struggle with his sexuality, with fitting in, with just living, in todays society; with its pressures both personal and financial.

Such a shame then that Crisis Hotline is so mundane in its presentation.

The film is essentially told in flashback, with the films main character, Danny (Christian Gabriel), discussing his life with a Simon, a call handler at the titular crisis hotline – one set up specifically for LGBT folks to call in times of need – who finds that most of his callers are using the service for reasons that would qualify as being certainly less than a crisis. However that changes when Danny calls. and states he is in the process of killing himself.

Instantly gripped by his first real case, Simon does his best to connect with Danny and find out why he has come to consider such a drastic action. As the tale of Danny’s journey is unraveled the film takes us through Danny’s life: a young romance, a troubling network of individuals, and a dark secret… a secret that is actually deadly.

Written and directed by Mark Schwab, his first feature in six years, Crisis Hotline is very much in the vein of films like Phone Booth: a small-scale film that uses a limited cast and limited locations to build a solid thriller that is let down by poor performances across the board. There’s no sense of danger, of urgency; hell, of even character motivation in ANY of this films performances – so much so that the actors monotone delivery makes this film just as monotonous. Especially when we cut to the phone conversation between Simon and Danny… The voice of Danny sounds like someone reading a script, a script he’s never seen before and a script he’s not actually been asked to perform, merely give it a perfunctory read, out loud. It’s table-read quality delivery at best.

Harkening back to the erotic thrillers of the 90s, Crisis Hotline spices up its story (well tries to) with numerous sex scenes. Only they’re not erotic. They are as monotone as the actors, there’s zero eroticism, zero emotion. It’s like watching robots try to re-enact love scenes. It’s a shame because there’s a decent thriller, and an intersting tale of the LGBT struggle, trying so desperately to get out from all the films monotony.

But I will give Crisis Hotline its due… I did stick around to see how the story would end despite all the issues I had with it. Shame then that even that fell flat.

Crisis Hotline is out now on DVD and Digital from High Octane Pictures.

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