Film In recent days I’ve been plagued by phone calls from an unrecognisable telephone number. Or at least a telephone I didn't recognise. At random times of the day I’ve heared my ringtone, and because I don’t keep my mobile with me all the time, I’ve been dashing to retrieve it from wherever I’ve left it, only for it stop before I could answer. My usual strategy in these situations has been to ignore it, but it has been persistent enough that I eventually called it back and a recorded message revealed it to be the Daily Telegraph’s promotions line. They rang again today while I was out shopping. Luckily the phone was in my pocket.
“Hello” said the call centre advisor. “Is that Stuart Barnes?”
“It’s Burns. Hello. Are you from the Daily Telegraph?”
”Yes, I am, I …”
“You’ve been plaguing me with phone calls. Could you take me off your list please?"
“Oh, um, yes, I …” He was going to hang up.
“Hold on. Can I just say this is the third time I’ve asked you.” Which it was.
“I’m doing it now.” He replied sharply and hung up.
All of which means I can sympathise with Mary Kee, the divorcee whose equally inundated with phone calls in Matthew Parkhill’s thriller The Caller even if our stories diverge somewhat. For one thing, she has to deal with the hammering ring of the old black telephone left in the new singleton apartment she’s rushed to rent in the wake of her separation, whereas mine’s now a soothing snatch of Kevin Shield’s soundtrack to Lost In Translation. The Daily Telegraph was just uppity with my attitude, although I am concerned that the Telegraph still have my address from the animated Shakespeare dvd promotion of a few years ago which led to my predicament. When Mary’s rude with her apparent wrong number it leads, as should be the case in the thriller genre, to murderous consequences.
Beyond that, there’s not much more I’d want to give away about The Caller. Even the press release which was sent with this review copy I think says too much and offering genre details beyond “thriller” spoils at least three of the best surprises. As does this webpage, which you really shouldn’t look at either. I've even just deleted another reference and replaced it with this sentence, just in case. What I can say is that although this is a film with small ambitions and judging by its few locations, a slender budget, Parkhill recreating the kind of 90s psychological fare top-lined by Julia Roberts or Diane Lane (Sleeping With The Enemy, that sort of thing), Sergio Casci’s screenplay succeeds in utilising the premise to turn some of their tropes upside down, not least the other abusive caller her ex-husband (played with pantomime creepiness by Ed Quin).
Perhaps we’re on safer territory talking about the cast. The press release also makes much of this being a bringing together casting from Twilight and True Blood, though I will say it has nothing to do with vampires. Twiglet’s Rachelle Lefevre is quite excellent as Mary, if looking disconcertingly like a tall Michelle Trachtenberg in a pre-Raphaelite wig. True to the film’s exploitation roots, she spends portions of the film in daisy-dukes thanks to the air conditioning in the apartment, but when the plot hits the fan she eventually fills her kitchen with to bring a much needed breeze, she’s capable of projecting both vulnerability and strength. Stephen Moyer (From True Blood (or NY-LON)) does what’s expected of the love interested especially during a longer than is possibly required softcore love making scene.
Some of the other reviews online I have been remarkably unforgiving to a piece which understands its genre and has few ambitions beyond it. Admittedly there is one glaring issue later in the film which means that the antagonistic telephone couldn’t and shouldn’t work. The deleted scenes do address why Mary’s stuck using this ancient beast when newer technology is available, cut presumably because there’s already one entertainingly pedantic exposition scene in the middle utilising the budding boyfriend’s convenient profession, If you did look at that spoilery webpage (or even just the link), you’ll know this kind of story risks such questions anyway and that even the master of this kind of material writes himself into a hole. At least Casci takes a crack at offering a justification and it’s certainly no less ludicrous.
The Caller is available now from Universal Pictures on blu-ray and dvd.