Cast: Rachelle Lefevre, Stephen Moyer, Luis Guzmán
Directed by: Matthew Parkhill
Written by: Sergio Casci
After enduring a tough divorce from her abusive husband, Mary (Lefevre) moves into an old apartment building with no one around but the friendly gardener (Guzmán). As soon as she hooks up the landline in her new home, she starts to receive disconcerting phone calls from a crazed woman who claims to be from the past. Initially, Mary thinks that it’s a malicious prank pulled by her threatening ex-husband, but unexplainable things begin to occur: people start to disappear, and Mary’s physical reality starts to change. With no other place to turn, she enlists the help of a professor at the local community college (Moyer) to help her cope.
I can hear the pitch now: “It’s like The Lake House meets When a Stranger Calls!” To call this movie ‘derivative’ or ‘unoriginal’ would be unfair. Every film borrows ideas from the films that have come before it, but when little is done to further the concept, or explore it in new ways, then it does nothing more than tread water. The Caller does just that. It treads water. And a slightly-less-than-mediocre film is worse than a horrifically bad one.
Everything about The Caller is pedestrian. We’ve seen this premise before, and though it gives it the slant of a psychological thriller, it still doesn’t really deliver any new revelations. Movies that deal with a fantastical concepts need to establish their rules early and adhere to them to avoid potential plot holes, (fans of this genre are relentless about pointing them out).The Caller doesn’t seem to have enough control over its story to do much else but make the rules up as it goes, substituting uninteresting subplots to distract from the flimsy logic.
The main character is plucked from ‘strong independent women’ clichés, and even despite all of Rachelle Lefevre’s (Twilight) efforts, Mary remains flat and uninspired. And when your main character doesn’t work, the supporting parts are dead in the water. A good indication that a story is in trouble is when the most interesting character is limited to a voice over through the telephone. Though, to the film’s credit, it looks amazing. Parkhill might not be able to elicit compelling storytelling, but his work with cinematographer Alexander Melman sets up a very interesting visual tone.
The Caller hinges on a weak premise and an even weaker story. There are far too many “why doesn’t she just…” questions that plague the film, and it takes itself too seriously to view it as a camp classic. The result is a film that is easy to hang up on.
United Kingdom, Puerto Rico. 92 minutes. Rated R.