New in select theaters and drive-ins from Cinedigm!!
THE CALL (2020)
Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr.
Written by Patrick Stibbs
Starring Lin Shaye, Tobin Bell, Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Mike Manning, Sloane Morgan Siegel, Judd Lormand, Randy J. Goodwin, Brooklyn Anne Miller, Leah Contreras, Toby Leeder, Aidan Bertola, Madeleine Wade, Ciara Hanna
An elderly woman named Edith Cranston (INSIDIOUS’ Lin Shaye) is tormented by a group of teens who believe her to be a witch. A new kid in town with a troubled past named Chris (Chester Rushing) mixes up with this group of no-good kids and goes with the group for another night of Edith’s torment. When Edith confronts them in her yard, she is driven to suicide by the mean-spirited taunts and pranks she has endured from the kids through the years. The next week, Edith’s husband Edward (SAW’s Tobin Bell) invites the group to their home as it appears Edith has left the kids something in her will. Edward proposes a game to the group; if they can stay on the phone upstairs for one minute, they’ll get $100,000. Edward buried Edith with a telephone and the phone upstairs is a direct line to beyond the grave. Will any of the kids have what it takes to survive Edith’s revenge?
Swiping some elements from a particularly blood-curdling episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE CALL has its intentions in the right place. It’s got big operatic and spooky music, a nice atmosphere with Edith’s home decorated with all sorts of gothic statues and antiques, and a hook that basically makes the film a fantasy slasher where the childhood fears of the kids are used against them as revenge. While this is not unlike the way Freddy Krueger offs his prey in the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series (and Shaye should know because she’s related to Bob Shaye and also had a role in the original ELM STREET). These are somewhat standard paranormal slasher tropes that are tried and true, but done with some skill in THE CALL. It may not be entirely original, but the motions the film goes through are decently made.
It’s frustrating when actors in their twilight years give up trying to play characters and simply end up playing themselves in a film over and over. Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro have unfortunately fallen from historic greats in the industry to simply showing up, muttering a few lines that resemble most of their previous performances and then take off to cash their check to pay for that summer home. While I respect Lin Shaye for all of the work she has done in the horror industry, I feel she and her co-star Tobin Bell, have sadly fallen in that category of simply showing up and being Lin and Tobin. What I’d give to see these actors play a character rather than the same role we’ve seen a million times. Bell is most guilty of this in THE CALL, he even invites the group to a game in the exact same voice he always uses in every SAW film. Shaye gets to stretch her acting muscles a bit more as a big bad here, acting as her own supernatural slasher with cackling glee, but still, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
THE CALL has its moments of charm and effectiveness. The kids aren’t terrible actors and it’s set in the 80’s without it being guilty of being obvious about it. There’s a nice retro feel to this horror as if it might have played well had it been released in the year it is trying to portray. Still, there’s nothing new to see here, but if you’re looking for a harmless throwback, answer THE CALL.