By David Dent
Its 1987 and new kid Chris (Chester Rushing) arrives feeling out of place at Willow High school, after his mum’s separation relocates them. He’s shown around by plucky Tanya (Erin Sanders); we know it’s the 80s because Chris wears Walkman headphones round his neck, Tanya’s wears blue eye shadow and lycra workout gear, and they’ve got Pacman at the arcade. Tanya takes Chris to the fairground to introduce him to her friends, cocky Zack (Mike Manning) and his brother Brett (Sloane Morgan Siegel).
We learn that Laura, Tanya’s little sister, went missing while attending a day care centre run by Edith Cranston (Lin Shaye in her 6th genre title of the year; not bad for 77); Cranston was in the frame but hired a clever lawyer and got off scot free. Ever since then the three have made an annual pilgrimage to the Cranstons to cause trouble and remind Edith of the truth; and this year Chris is tagging along.
Edith lives with her husband Edward (another veteran genre regular, Tobin Bell – great to see Shaye and Bell team up at last); this year’s pranking gets a bit out of hand, leading to Edith hanging herself. The kids find out that she’s dead but not the circumstances, or that they might have contributed to her demise.
But things are about to get weirder. The gang are summoned to the Cranstons and given a very ‘Twilight Zone’ style offer: Edward has rigged up a telephone which can communicate directly with Edith in the grave; all they have to do is each make a call in turn and stay on the line for a minute; success in the task will net them £100,000. Failure to do this will result in Edward telling the police what the kids have been up to.
The remainder of the movie takes us on a rather mind-bending journey of what happens after the calls are made, and while these scenes are well mounted they make events rather baffling. Shaye gets a real chance to shine as Edith (it’s probably not a massive spoiler to mention that she doesn’t stay in the grave) and Bell gets to reprise his role in 2004’s ‘Saw’ as the architect of chaos again.
I preferred the more subtly weird first half of the movie rather than the more abstract second part; the set designs are very impressive for a low budget film, and a good 80s vibe is established early on. It’s impressive stuff, but honestly ‘The Call’ feels like a movie that gets dressed up with nowhere to go.
The Call is available now on DVD and Digital Download.