Film Review: The Caller
Review by Dustin Hall
After a couple of years in turbulent development (Brittany Murphy was canned from the production in ’09, just before her untimely death), The Caller finally comes to DVD. The timing couldn’t be better, ultimately, with the presence of Stephen Moyer in the film — True Blood’s own Bill the vampire, at the height of his popularity.
The Caller is the story of Mary Kee (Rachelle Lefevre, Twilight), a recent divorcee who moves into a new apartment in hopes of ditching her abusive stalker ex-husband. The plan doesn’t work as well as she’d like though, and she soon finds herself backed into the corner by the ex, and relying on her new support network, the building’s handyman (Luis Guzman, Oz) and newfound beau, John (Moyer).
Before long, though, the real danger reveals itself. Mary begins receiving an increasingly strange series of calls on her phone, from a confused woman looking for her husband. The woman believes that she’s living over twenty years in the past, and also being abused by her reclusive husband. Mary plays along with the caller, Rose, feeling empathy for her plight. Eventually the women agree that maybe, if only they could get away with it, it would be better to kill the ex-husbands instead of simply leaving them. Mary is perplexed the next day when she finds a new wall has mysteriously erected itself in one of her cupboards. Not only that, but some new art suddenly appears in her apartment. When Mary and Rose next speak, Mary is stunned to find that the woman actually did go through with murdering her husband. As the women talk, the world around Mary continues to change.
In the end, Mary can only reach one conclusion: Rose is actually in the past, somehow communicating with her. And as she changes events in the past, the present is also affected. Rose, unhinged by the act of murder, now focuses on Mary, stalking her as a child, her friends and family in the past and threatening to alter, or even erase their lives.
The Caller begins as a pretty typical domestic thriller, but evolves over time into a dark fantasy. At no point is an explanation offered for Rose, or how she’s somehow able to phone into the future. Vampire Bill offers up some Doctor Who-lite time nexus theory (his character is a physicist, natch), but it’s only a bit of framing. In the end, the reasoning isn’t important to the story, just the result.
The one complaint I have with The Caller is simply that it’s a slow burn. I’m generally okay with that — the building of character and tension — but it takes quite a while to get to the heart of the story, the time-bending Rose — and a lot of the opening focuses on Mary and her divorce. While important as a frame for the story, and an interesting analog to the main plot, a lot of time is spent on what is ultimately just a side-story. However, those with a bit of patience will find a solid pay-off in the plot, and a thought-provoking puzzle. How does a person in the present use their knowledge to protect themselves against a stalker from twenty years past?
There’s not a lot of blood or jumps or real terror to be had in The Caller, but it’s a decent suspense thriller. Mary and Rose know of each other almost exclusively through talks on the phone, and yet, the characters are able to threaten each other in their different time zones. Rose makes particular use of a pot of frying grease at one point, presenting Mary with a difficult choice that leads to instant horrific results. The tension, at least in some moments, is high.
The Caller will be too slow of a start for some, but if you feel like investing in a very different, character-driven suspense movie, it’s definitely worth checking out. Also if you just want to watch the vampires from True Blood and Twilight make out, I guess that’s a good reason too.
The Caller will have a DVD release date of October 4th and is available now on VOD