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'The Caller' Movie Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

'The Caller' movie poster.
© Samuel Goldwyn
The Caller is just your average stalker movie...except the stalker and the victim live three decades apart. If you think that someone in the past can't affect you, you obviously haven't seen Back to the Future.

The Plot

Mary (Rachelle Lefevre), a young college student in San Juan, Puerto Rico going through a nasty divorce, moves into new apartment, hoping to avoid her abusive husband Steven (Ed Quinn). The place comes with an old rotary phone, and shortly after moving in, a woman starts to call it on a daily basis asking for someone named Bobby. Although Mary tells her she has the wrong number, the woman, eager for a shoulder to cry on, keeps calling, each time revealing more details about herself. She says her name is Rose, and her boyfriend Bobby is a louse who cheats on her. And oh, by the way, she says it's 1979.

It seems Rose used to live in that very apartment, and somehow the phone is a link from the past to the present. Mary initially doesn't believe and wants to push the lonely sad sack Rose out of her life for good, but when Rose shows that what she does in the past has repercussions in the present, Mary becomes trapped in a relationship that becomes as potentially deadly as the one she's just escaped. Or has she? Mary soon finds herself being stalked both in the past and in the present, playing a game of cat and mouse on two fronts with two unstable individuals.

The End Result

Rachelle Lefevre in 'The Caller'.

Rachelle Lefevre in 'The Caller'.

© Samuel Goldwyn
The Caller is a gift from the horror gods: a fresh, cleverly plotted, well acted, genuinely chilling work that rekindles my faith in a genre that can get bogged down in slick remakes, tired conventions, hollow imitations and gore over substance. It's not a remake, it's not in 3-D, it's not a "found footage" movie, it's not torture porn. The script actually plays more like an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, directed with the gritty low-tech style of an indie film.

The basic premise was used a decade ago in the Jim Caviezel-Dennis Quaid pic Frequency -- with a radio instead of a phone -- but The Caller takes it to a deliciously dark place, delivering a palpable creep factor with a faceless nemesis -- played wonderfully by Lorna Raver (Drag Me to Hell) -- whose cold, unhinged unpredictability makes her one of the scariest horror villains in recent memory. Like many great genre films, it forgoes the "why" in favor of the "what if," traveling down a twisty path into a fantastic conundrum that would vex the best of us.

The script delivers not only scares, though; there's a real sense of drama and character depth in a tale of love and loss and the fear that each engenders in all of us. Matthew Parhill's direction conveys the various tones -- from dramatic to mysterious to horrific -- with similarly self-assured effectiveness. In a genre of film where each entry tries to out-"extreme" the last, the simple, play-like The Caller is admirably restrained with very little gore and yet manages to be more to-the-bone thrilling than 99% of the horror movies out there.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B (Raver steals the film with her terrifying, manic performance.)
  • Direction: B (Adeptly portrays a range of emotions and tones, most notably unnerving chills.)
  • Script: A (Smart, fresh, unpredictable, dramatic and scary.)
  • Gore/Effects: C (Little to speak of, but you don't need it.)
  • Overall: B (Mind-bending and creepy, a smart and emotional breath of fresh air.)

The Caller is directed by Matthew Parkhill and is rated R by the MPAA for some violence/disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality. Release date: August 26, 2011.

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