THE CALLER (2011)
Let me pull on my old man pants for a second…
With the advent of ringtones and vibrate settings, I think the idea of how startling a telephone ring really is might be lost on today’s iPhone generation. It used to be pretty damn scary when dead silence was broken by the jangling clang of a rotary phone. THE CALLER takes full advantage of that jolt, one of many things the film does right.
Set in beautiful Puerto Rico, the story is about a woman getting out of an abusive marriage named Mary Kee (played by TWILIGHT’s Rachelle Lefevre) who moves into a new apartment to find a rotary phone already plugged in and functional. She thinks nothing of it until she starts receiving strange phone calls from a woman named Rose who seems confused at first, as she believes her boyfriend lives in the apartment. Mary writes the call off as a crank or a confused old lady until the phone calls persist and the person on the other line insists that her boyfriend lives in the apartment. Turns out Rose is calling from a different time–1979 to be exact. It also turns out Rose is pretty bent. What begins as a bonding period between two women wronged by men becomes an abusive relationship itself as Rose threatens Mary from across time. One wouldn’t think a call from the past would be dangerous, but when Rose is willing to rub out people from Mary’s current existence and alter history, it turns out she can do a lot of damage. What transpires is a cat and mouse game over the telephone with Mary trying to gain control of her life once again, this time from an obsessive caller willing to kill to be heard.
Though the plot involves time travel, director Matthew Parkhill and writer Sergio Casci do a great job of trimming away all of the unnecessary sci fi laden fat that usually makes my head ache when I watch stories involving time. But the filmmakers know their audience and trust them to know enough about this stuff to understand it all without lengthy explanations. In fact, how the phone is able to pick up calls from the past is never explained. It just is. And I love that. Way too many horror films go into too much detail as to the reasoning behind their films. THE CALLER just is. And what it is is horrifying.
Constructed at a Hitchcockian level of suspense and skill, THE CALLER is like watching a boiling pot of water, perched precariously over one’s head, slowly bubbling over and you can’t do a damn thing about it. The film hits the ground running and never stops ratcheting up the chills until the very last second, though it takes its time to patiently allow us to get to know such rich characters as Stephen Moyer’s gentle turn as Mary’s new suitor, Ed Quinn’s ferocious ex lover, and the irreplaceable Luis Guzman as Mary’s landlord and close friend. The other member of the cast is Puerto Rico itself, which provides a unique backdrop for a horror film with it’s rich spiritual history and ageless streets and culture.
THE CALLER is a fantastic achievement in old school scares with none of the glossy bells and safe whistles you see in a typical Hollywood horror thriller, but plenty of terrifying rings. THE CALLER opens in select theaters today!