Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Caller (2011)

     Playing like an overlong and underfunded episode (specifically "Sorry, Right Number") of Tales from the Darkside (1983-88), Matthew Parkhill's The Caller (2011) manages to be mildly entertaining even as it strains whatever passes for credibility when the central premise is that a phone can connect callers separated more by years than miles.  Unfortunately, it cannot build or maintain any amount of tension, both of which are necessary for a story like this.
     Part of the problem may come from an inability to develop the story in a more nuanced manner.  Mary (Rachelle Leferve) is going through a divorce with a mildly abusive (more menacing and overbearing than anything else) mistake of a husband, Steven (Ed Quinn).  This is handled in a rather obvious, straightforward manner, which deprives any kind of slow build up of the level of threat Mary feels in her just walking around world.  As such, the would-be ex-husband never resonates as anything other than filler material.
     Another part of the problem is that Mary is not consistent in regards to temperament.  She has weird, seemingly random moods swings between being sweet, suspicious, skittish, and oblivious.  She also has no visible means of support or manner to kill time other than the one night class for which she signs up.  More than that, Mary isn't very bright.  In her few fits of being too trusting, she brings all too obvious ruin to her future past-self.
     While The Caller is set on Puerto Rico, in the town of Ceiba.  We mostly know this because Mary's father was stationed at the nearby naval air station Roosevelt Roads.  There is also an off-hand remarks about immigrants getting on the wrong boat and missing New York harbor by quite some distance.  What we don't see are many Puerto Ricans or people speaking Spanish.  While the territory is multilingual, the film makes no effort to make much of the setting.  I felt that not making the most of the setting robbed the movie of an opportunity to escape the generic city setting that many lower budget horror films effect.
     There isn't any gore or gratuitous violence in The Caller.  Indeed, Parkhill does try to make it a supernatural suspense thriller.  The problem is that neither he nor screenwriter Sergio Casci break far enough out of the mold to not have a succession of telegraphed scenes.  On the other hand, it is far more satisfying as a film than many of the larger budget horror/suspense films that have been trotted out over the past few years.

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