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NIGHT CALLER (2022)
Directed and written by Chad Ferrin.
Starring Steve Railsback, Susan Priver, Bai Ling, Robert Miano, Silvia Spross, Kelli Maroney, Lew Temple, Robert Rhine, James MacPherson, Kristi McHugh, Holden Kopman, Scott Vogel, Brandon Kirk, Cheryl Cipriano, Kyle McConaghy, Talia Asseraf, Michael Cambridge, Joe Castro
Clementine (Susan Priver) is a worker at a psychic call center who begins getting phone calls from a serial killer who scalps his victims. As the calls continue, the murders seem to be getting closer to Clementine, who decides to take matters in her own hands and try to figure out the identity of the killer.
One look at NIGHT CALLER and you can tell it was made with a deep respect for the horror and especially the giallo genre. It’s got a witness to murder, an unseen killer save for his black gloves, and a plot to track down and stop the killer. Not only are there structural nods to giallo, Clementine’s father, Charles (played by Robert Miano) is bedridden and constantly watches old horror movies like PATRICK and DEMENTIA 13. Littered with all kinds of horror memorabilia, this film wears its heart for horror on its sleeve and it is quite infectious despite the film’s budgetary limitations and faults.
Chad Ferrin uses the LA at night atmosphere with long dark streets and tall stars leading to unknown mysteries. Many times, this felt like I was watching a film made ages ago because it relies on more on setting a mood than dazzling with quick cuts and loud noises. This could easily be shown among a collection of old thrillers from the late 80’s and 90’s and it would fit like the glove the killer wears.
There are also quite a lot of gory kills and effective scenes of tension building up to these murders. While the psychic aspect reminded me of THE EYES OF LAURA MARS, NIGHT CALLER pays the most homage to 1980’s MANIAC. There’s the demented breathy killer, the scalping, and a filthy tint to the entire film. There’s almost a greasy feel to NIGHT CALLER, as if you’re watching something you shouldn’t. It reminded me of watching adult horror movies as a kid and thinking I’m getting away with something, yet feeling a bit queasy about it after watching. This film succeeded in making me feel uncomfortable. A lot of it had to do with the slightly old cast filled with obscure actors like Steve Railsback, Lew Temple, Kelli Maroney, and especially the batshit lunacy that permeates every second Bai Ling is on screen. She truly is an oddity. A fascinating one I probably could watch folding linens and be totally intrigued.
Towards the end of the film, when things need to be wrapped up, NIGHT CALLER becomes convoluted and then overly simplified. There’s a near death that isn’t very believable in the last act who survives being scalped even though the rest of the victims seem to die quickly from the ordeal. NIGHT CALLER is not a perfect film, but it does capture a certain mood, contains some very gnarly scalpings, and a a nutty cast. If you’re a LA noir/giallo/thriller fan who likes their mystery with some blood and gore, you could do much worse.