Review: The Caller

Rachelle Lafevre starts receiving phone calls from a strange woman in the past. When she tells the stranger to stop calling, the mysterious caller threatens to kill her…while she is still a child.

Directed by: Matthew Parkhill
Written by: Sergio Casci
Starring: Rachelle Lefevre, Stephen Moyer
Released: 2010 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB

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The Caller has a great premise. When Mary Kee (Rachelle Lafevre) moves into her new apartment following a messy divorce she discovers an old telephone that she quickly becomes attached to. She gives it pride and place in her new home. But soon she starts to receive strange phone calls from a lady who asks to speak to someone who Mary does not know. She tells the lady to stop calling but she refuses. She insists that the person she is trying to reach lives at Mary’s address. It soon becomes apparent that, somehow, the woman is calling from the past and the person she is trying to call used to live in Mary’s apartment many years ago. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship that hinges on their unfortunate experiences with men. When Mary tells the woman she should leave her cheating boyfriend the caller appears to take the most drastic step – she murders the man she has been seeing. So Mary again tells her to stop calling but the woman refuses to go away with the ultimate threat – she will kill Mary’s mother in the past.

the caller, horror film review, rachelle lafevre,

The premise lulled me into a false sense of security. I’m always enamoured with the promise of time-travel or event manipulation through dimension jumps and all that hocus-pocus but The Caller quickly falls to its knees under a dim mist if convolution and facts not adding up. It begins with Mary’s emotional terrorist husband who, given Mary’s sane, level-headed and intelligent character, could never have fallen in love with and ultimately married. It continues with Mary’s unlikely bond with the mysterious caller, ambiguity surrounding the caller’s deadly motivation, and plot logic that spirals out of control. And so an interesting idea becomes a confused one that is predictably and conventionally laid out with all the usual clichés intact (the mobile phone not working necessitating the use of the landline; the friend who happens to be a mathematician who tries to describe, with squiggly lines on a piece of paper, what is happening; and the ultimate horror film character killer – a graphic sex scene).

Inexperienced director Matthew Parkhill might not be able to gloss over Sergio Casci’s creaky script but he does have plenty of stylistic flourishes up his sleeve to keep things interesting. From disorientating camera angles, tension-building, well-paced editing and a more than competent grasp of how to use the sound stage in horror film. Although the ending might leave a few people scratching their heads, it is suitably manic and unsettling. The film also benefits from a strong performance from Rachelle Lafevre as Mary.

But ultimately I was a bit disappointed. I ordinarily fall for anything with a time-travel element but The Caller doesn’t bring anything new to concept. And while such fantasy requires a suspension of disbelief there are too many holes in the plot, whether it be character motivation or the direction of the story, to really care about Mary’s dilemma. By the time the obviously distressed Mary finds the inclination to be romanced by a maths professor despite the horrors that surround her, my suspension of disbelief blew a fuse. And guess what having sex leads to if you go by horror film convention…

The Caller is released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK October 24th.

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

This review is part of 31 Days of Horror:

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Eric Reply

    Nice review. That’s too bad that the movie doesn’t deliver the goods despite its great premise. I hadn’t even heard of this one, but it sounds like I’m not missing much.

  2. Avatar
    Raghav Reply

    Thanks, the initial story sounded interesting, but now I know I can skip it. I would however recommend an Indian film called Kartik Calling Kartik which is somewhat similar (different story, but it involves being harassed by phone calls). It’s a bit draggy, but an interesting watch.

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