04th Feb2021

‘The Call’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Lin Shaye, Tobin Bell, Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Mike Manning, Sloane Morgan Siegel, Judd Lormand, Randy J, Goodwin, Brooklyn Anne Miller, Madeleine Wade, Ciara Hanna | Written by Patrick Stibbs | Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr.

From the creator of Final Destination, The Call features horror icons Lin Shaye (Insidious franchise, Dead End) and Tobin Bell (the Saw franchise, The Flash) in a throwback horror set in 1987.

The Call tells the story of newcomer Chris (Chester Rushing) who befriends a group of small town friends whose hobby includes harassing Edith and Edward Cranston (Lin Share and Tobin Bell respectively) over the death of ones of the groups siblings. After the kids smash up their property one night Edith can’t stand it any more and takes her own life… Invited to her will reading by Edward the group are asked to take place in a simple “game”, to go into a back room and make one phone call and stay on the line for 60 seconds. If they do, they get $10k; if they refuse Edward will call the cops and tell them EXACTLY what happened to Edith…

There have been plenty of horror films in recent years which harken back to the 80s. It seems filmmakers are looking to the decade that gave us the slasher movie boom and when horror films actually made it into cinemas for inspiration – perhaps trying to cash-in on nostalgia or maybe filmmakers are of the age where they want to homage films they grew up on. Whatever the reason I’m all for it.

In the case of The Call, the entire film is set in the 80s, the autumn of 1987 to be precise, which actually does nothing for the actual look of the film outside of some of the clothing the cast wear. However it does provide a suitably creepy vibe and it limits the use of modern technology (there are no mobile phones here) AND removes any opportunity for post-modern irony that some throwback horror, these days, tends to add to the mix. This, for all intents and purposes, could have been a product of the 80s.

In terms of story, this is very much a supernatural revenge tale. Yes, we know that the phone call will be anything but simple, this is a horror film after all, but what we get on these calls are Twilight Zone-esque “pay for your sins” scenes of revenge – the kids facing their fears, paying for past discretions etc., with a sting in the tale (pun intended) that adds multiple layers to the film – ultimately revealing the films true villain!

Surprisingly, given the 80s theme, Tobin Bell’s experience on the more modern Saw franchise actually adds more to his role. As an audience we’ve seen him be an evil b*stard so there’s an inherent anticipation that he’ll be doing something similar here. His on-screen wife, played by genre icon Lin Shaye, is the films supernatural antagonist making the group face their personal nightmares in a female Freddy Krueger-esque manner. She even gets to revel in grotesque make-up, facing the teens head on!

Speaking of the teens in this film, Chester Rushing was apparently in 2019’s Killer Party. But whilst I don’t remember him in that film, he is the most memorable aspect of this movie. His performance as small-town newcomer Chris is subtle and nuanced at first, perfectly capturing the notion of someone looking to keep their personal life just that, personal. When Chris does open up and in particular when he’s trapped in the Cranston’s hellish home, Rushing opens up into your typical ‘unlikely hero’ role with aplomb and his empathic performance really makes you root for him to survive.

I’ve seen people say that The Call is a cliched horror that does nothing new. But isn’t that the point? This is two filmmakers, writer Patrick Stibbs and director Timothy Woodward Jr., coming together to make a film that reflects the very era their film is set in; and it does that perfectly. Other filmmakers could take inspiration from just how well The Call captures the 80s feel and makes use of the audiences knowledge of the genre to both play up to and subvert expectations.

**** 4/5

The Call is out now on DVD & Digital Download from Dazzler Media.

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