Film #28 of 2013: The Call (2013)
A veteran 911 operator must confront a killer from the past to save a young girl’s life.
I don’t believe in call waiting because I rushed to the theater to see The Call during opening weekend.I went and saw it in an absolutely jam packed theater on my birthday, and I must say my expectations were pretty low because I didn’t find the trailer that captivating. I thought it was going to be a “Speed” wannabe and have a typical, predictable plot. Boy was I wrong! It was freaking awesome and way better then trailer lets it out to be. It looks like it is just going to be a car chase movie with a kidnapped girl stuck in the truck the whole time (and while that is also true) it is so much more then that. Be sure not to answer your phone during this movie. You won’t want to miss a second.
If you think this is a Scream copy think again – although you might find yourself screaming! There are some similarities however between The Call and Scream like the phone connection, one of the main characters being called Casey, the recurrence of a one liner (“do you like scary movies”/”it’s already done”) and even the poster is a bit reminiscent.
This film has everything a good thriller should have – amazing acting, thrills, and great character development on both sides of the “good” and “evil” spectrum. There are some really scary and intense scenes a horror fan will also love, the woman in front of me kept going “oh my god!”
The film delivered on the real substance of being a 911 Dispatcher, something rarely shown in thrillers. It gave the audience a look into the real moment to moment split second decisions made by these seldom praised messengers of help. Halle Berry was spot on in her portrayal of Jordan – the 911 operator.
Berry, who has a knack for finding the toughness beneath vulnerability, and vice versa delivers a tense and unfussy performance. She gets support from Denise Dowse as a co-worker and Roma Maffia (Nip Tuck, Nick of Time) as her supervisor. Jordan is a cop’s daughter who’s dating Paul (also a cop) and following their make-out session on the balcony of the call center during her break, Jordan receives an emergency call from a terrified girl whose home is being broken into. Jordan does her best to help, but after a series of instructions and a fatal mistake, the killer takes the phone and speaks words that will be repeated throughout the film – “it’s already done.” Later we find out that the girl has been murdered, as a news clip shows her dead body at the scene of the crime (which I have never seen in real life on the news yet!) Of course Jordan blames herself and this riveting scene pulls you into the story and hooks your attention for what’s to come.
Jordan returns to the high-wire stress of the phones when teenager Casey Welson (played by Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin) calls from the trunk of a car. We find out later, that she has been abducted by the same deranged man with a plan. Conveniently for the film, Casey is using a prepaid and disposable phone, making her location harder to trace and thereby drawing out the tension. Listen for fitting music like “Puttin’ On the Ritz” to be thumping inside the car (this also is useful as the kidnapper can’t hear the 911 calls Casey is making).
This lifeline connection between Jordan and Casey is the heart of the film. Jordan talking Casey through this harrowing nightmare doesn’t even begin to describe the 96 minutes of insanity you’re in for when you go see The Call. Most of the film takes place in either the 911 call center (aka “the hive”) or the inside of the trunk, yet the film is never dull with action being delivered by the second.
What I really enjoyed about the film was how they had an interesting back story for the “bad guy” Michael Foster, played by Canadian actor Michael Eklund. I recognized him right away from his work in Blood Ties, Walk All Over Me, and The Divide. This sort of Norman Bates mentally unstable character is really fun to watch. He was really believable (as he always is) as the sick and twisted abductor and serial killer. They could have just had it be a random killer with no motive, no back story, and whom lived alone in a rundown apartment. Instead it was more chilling because the psycho was a suburban family man, a seemingly “normal” guy.
When Casey gets abducted I knew he had some reason to want girls with blonde hair, because as his previous victim had blonde hair as well. He could have easily killed her many times during the drive, but he didn’t. It is also interesting why he went for her and not her friend, since her friend left alone too – I guess she wasn’t blonde enough!
[I knew I should have used the mahogany red hair dye!]
The film takes huge turn (and becomes reminiscent of House at the End of the Street) when we learn Michael had a sister he was very close to. Paul is shown looking at pictures in the abductors (rather large and quite nice) house when he sees a shrine to his deceased sister. We see throughout the film many shots of her and Michael and his sister together. She is beautiful and has long blonde hair. (Dah dah dah dah!)
Through the police interviewing Michael wife (who is seemingly oblivious to the whole thing) we learn that he may be at a remote cabin. Micheal’s childhood home burned down, but a nearby secondary cottage still stands. Michael’s wife was under the assumption he had been renovating it – the only thing he is renovating is his warped mind! The police raid the cottage but find no one. Jordan is mentally forlorn by the prospect of a second failure to save a girl from Michael, and takes matters into her own hands going to the cabin for clues. While there, she finds photographs of Michael and his sister, but this time she is sick in a hospital bed and has lost her hair. Jordan is stunned when she finds a photograph of him kissing her on the mouth.
Recognizing the sound of a flagpole from the final moments of the 911 call, Jordan finds a hidden trap door amongst the dirt where the primary house used to stand. She pulls it open and finds a rickety ladder leading down into blackness. She takes out her cellphone to dial 911 (hello full circle moment) and accidentally fumbles it into the pit. She decides to go down into the blackness and from there we are led into the darkness of Michael’s psyche.
Combining clues from the second half of the film as well as observations of Michael in the cellar, you realize Michael had romantic feelings towards his sister and wanted to marry her. It shows him taking off his wedding ring and putting it on a glass hand next to her photo. It is unclear if she felt the same about him. Michael’s deep, dark, borderline incestuous secrets involving the sister he idolized are the reason for him kidnapping young girls. He is trying desperately to get her back in some way.
Michael also has a prop head that he treats like his sister, but he needs a replacement for her hair. He’s apparently been taking the scalps of the girls who have hair similar to his sister’s. So far, their hair have not been close enough, leading to repeated killings.
When the (now scantly-clad) Casey briefly gets away and sneaks into a room in the killers lair she sees something horrifying and screams. You’re not gonna want to see that,” he tells Casey, denying us the scary sight. By delaying our gratification, he makes us eager to return to the room. Later we do indeed see what was so terrifying. It isn’t what you would expect – a bloody head or a corpse…it is a bloody bed. This is the room where he keeps her photographs, mementos, and her clothes (that he is shown inhaling deeply.)
Jordan finds Casey tied in the cellar as Michael is about to scalp her (good timing!). He shows some remorse for his actions but says he can’t stop. Jordan attacks him, freeing Casey. Casey and Jordan fight against Michael and manage to knock him out. People in the theater applauded at this, I thought we were close to a standing ovation!
Jordan and Casey want him to suffer the way he has made others suffer so they tie him up in the cellar where they abandon him to die. They tell him they will use the cover story that Casey escaped and they don’t know where her abductor went. “It’s already done” Jordan tells him as she slams the door. It is unclear if they are just trying to scare him and will eventually call the police (since at the present time she can’t get a signal), or if in fact they are really going to leave him in his own dungeon where there is no escape for him unless he is Houdini.
It is a real hoot when the disbelieving killer confronts the suddenly unstoppable Halle Berry.”You’re just an operator,” he protests. “You can’t do this!” He says. In the movies, she can!