OUT NOW ON DEMAND!
Mary Kee is tormented by sinister phone calls from a mysterious woman. When the stranger reveals she's calling from the past, Mary tries to break contact, but the caller doesn't like being ignored, and looks for revenge in a unique and terrifying way...
The Caller is a bit of a landmark film here on Freddy In Space, in that it's the first screener i've received before the movie even hit theatres (it only hit 10 across the US on August 26th and from what I gather it's now out of those theatres and only available to watch On Demand). Of course this means that the image on the DVD I got was littered with all kinds of timestamps and watermarks, which is always fairly irritating, but I must say it was pretty exciting to pop a DVD into my PS3 that had my name literally printed onto it.
It's the little things in life. On with the review. And i've got a feeling that this one isn't going to be an easy one to convey my thoughts on. Hell, if i'm being honest, I spent most of last night tossing and turning in bed, trying to figure out whether I even liked it or not. The conclusion? Overall, I think I kinda did. But let's backtrack here.
The Caller (originally a short film made in 1997) has a pretty damn captivating premise, which sees an old woman (Drag Me To Hell's Lorna Raver!) placing calls to our main character (Twilight's Rachel Lefevre), seemingly from the past. The titular caller, her name is Rose, believes that she currently resides in the late 70's and thus, feels that her new phone tag friend, Mary Kee, is living in the future. The whole movie is essentially devoted to finding out what the hell is going on in that situation. Is Rose just a crazy old lady? Has Mary just been driven nuts by her recent divorce, to the point that she's created an imaginary friend in Rose? Or is this woman truly calling from the past? And why? It is these questions, rather than the answers to these questions, that make The Caller a pretty watchable and oftentimes quite captivating movie, though certaintly a flawed one. Though there are a lot of dull moments and downtime between the first time Rose calls and the moment we find out the answers to the afformentioned questions, I all in all found it to be an enjoyable little supernatural thriller.
Much of the appeal of The Caller for me lies in the fact that it's an original and smart movie, seperating itself from the pack of derivative and stupid films that run so rampant within the genre. For that, I admire it a whole lot. It's a well thought out and well crafted thriller, for the most part, one that is mostly engaging throughout, and it is because of these things that I find myself unable to really say too much bad about the movie, despite the fact that it gets a bit too sloppy and even slightly silly in the latter half and is overall a bit drab. So while the ideas are there, it's ultimately in the execution that The Caller runs into some problems. Let me try and elaborate without giving anything away. Not easy with this one.
The Caller is a thinking man's kinda thriller that gets a bit complicated as it progresses but everything does make sense in the end, even if it takes a minute or two to piece it all together in your head as it's playing out. So yes, it does make sense, no matter how messy it gets, but here's the thing. The film is ultimately lacking certain elements that would make what's going on make a whole lot more sense. Again, this is damn near impossible to write out without giving anything away, so allow me to just throw in some spoilers here to stress what i'm trying to stress to those who have seen the movie. I've blocked the spoiler text out with white bars so if you don't want to read it, skip ahead. But if you do, either cause you've seen the movie or cause you just don't care if things get spoiled, just give this block of text a highlight with your mouse!
So we find out that Rose really is calling from the past and that she has the ability to manipulate events from the past, which naturally affect the future, AKA the present day in the film. We also find out that she killed her husband back in the 70's and then hung herself by her phone cord, which is why she's now this ghostly entity that still exists in the time she did when she was last alive and also why she can use the phone cord as her channeling device. She has set her sights on Mary and begins killing off (in the past) any and all friends Mary makes, which makes them nonexistent in the present, making Mary look like a nutjob to anyone she speaks to about those people. Eventually Rose tries to kill the child version of Mary from the past, so that she too will vanish in the present. I think that about sums it up.
Now the thing about all this that just didn't work for me is the fact that no reason is ever given for why Rose is targeting Mary. I'm not the kinda guy who needs everything explained for him, and horror movies are generally scarier the less you know, but at the same time things have gotta make sense. Mary lives in Rose's former apartment, this much is true, but the fact that Rose is this evil being coupled with the fact that she's seemingly targeting Mary for no other reason than that one just doesn't really make much sense in the bigger picture. It makes sense why Rose killed her husband in the past but to have her suddenly be this mass killer who is now setting her sights on destroying a girl she doesn't even know just didn't really work for me. That aspect of the storyline seemed to lack the smarts of the rest of the film, which is a shame given it's a pretty large factor within the overall story. I just wish some connection were made between the two, other than their only connection being their place of residence, but I suppose this is one of those suspension of disbelief kinda films that I probably shouldn't be getting too worked up over the unbelievability of. Nevertheless, it's a gripe that has bothered me ever since I watched the film last night.
The bottom line here though is that no matter what issues I have with the film, it's one of those movies that I haven't been able to get out of my head since experiencing it, and it has even grown on me a bit in the hours since i've seen it, which is more than I can say for the majority of movies I come across. The execution of the strong and unique ideas is not the greatest, but those ideas are strong enough to overcome some of the faults that they bring along. The Caller is at times quite a creepy little movie, one that is fairly enthralling for most of its runtime, and i've got a whole hell of a lot of respect for it for that. It gets a little too silly and sloppy towards the end (an eye rolling ending that doesn't make much sense, though I get what they were going for), and overall lacks that oomph that ties it all together, but it is regardless one of the more interesting horror movies i've seen in some time. I'm not saying you're gonna love it, or that it's anything too special, but I feel it's definitely worth a watch for anyone looking to check out something a little different than what we're all used to within the genre. Watching horror movies practically for a living, i've come to highly appreciate different.
One last thing I want to mention is the cast, which is pretty solid. Lorna Raver is excellent as the creepy caller from the past and the always funny Luis Guzman adds both humor and heart to the film. The other major player in there is Stephen Moyer, who plays Vampire Bill on True Blood, which i'm a huge fan of. Nothing against Moyer as an actor but I found myself unable to seperate his character in this from his character on the show, this being the first thing i've seen him in outside of True Blood. Again, it's not his fault, but I kept expecting him to drop fang, burn up in the sunlight, or sense that Sookie was in danger and speed off fast as lightning to her aid, which admittedly got in the way of me getting real into his character. I guess that's just the nature of having such an iconic role in a long running TV show though. On the plus side of things, Moyer's character in The Caller is one you're intended to become emotionally invested with, just as Mary does, so being a fan of True Blood I instantly liked him right off the bat, so I guess there's always that silver lining. That said, Moyer does always seem to be waging an inner battle with his native British accent, on both the show and in this movie, which is a bit distracting. But I love the guy regardless and I always like to watch him on screen.