Title: The Call
HTS Overall Score:74
Horror-thriller movies that entertain a sense of realism are typically a total hit or miss, easily ending up as the latter of the two. It’s a difficult genre to nail, but when done well a horror-thriller can ignite fears that we generally suppress during our daily lives. The Silence of the Lambs is a great example of a film that preyed on the dark side of reality and carried audiences right to the brink of human sanity. The Call attempts to do the same, so let’s get this out of the way right now: It’s good popcorn fodder with some teeth clinching moments and nothing more. If you’re looking for a bulletproof plot that will scare you to tears and tingle hidden fears from start to finish, then move along and keep searching. It’s not here.
The Call taps into the life of a 911 call center operator and illuminates the intense emotional complexities of the job. Anyone who has ever worked on an emergency line of some sort can easily relate to the stress of the film’s operators. Long stretches of dullness and the mundane are quickly erased by moments of intensity where an operator’s voice becomes a lifeline and the removal of attachment and emotion is essential to surviving a day’s work. The creators of The Call tap into this reality and connect it to a few other unfortunate realities: abductions, murders and insanity. A formidable cocktail of fear and terror, for sure. Director Brad Anderson (known primarily for his directorial work in television: Boardwalk Empire, The Wire) does a relatively good job of carrying the movie to a good place, but never quite gets it to a great place. Nevertheless, an open mind and the lack of a critical eye is just enough to make The Call a decent stressful heap of thrilling entertainment.
Halle Berry is Jordan, a veteran 911 operator that works in a sprawling Los Angeles 911 dispatch center called the Hive. The beginning of the story has Jordan taking a call from a terrified teen trapped in a home with a sociopathic intruder played by Michael Eklund. At a crucial moment Jordan makes an error that has catastrophic consequences and leads to a brief conversation with the intruder. Jordan later sees the teen’s body on the local news and is emotionally rattled, so she removes herself from answering calls and begins training new operators. Soon thereafter she finds herself helping an inexperienced operator speaking with a kidnap victim named Casey (Abigail Breslin) trapped in the trunk of a car. Jordan eventually takes control of the line and stays with Casey as her kidnapper tries to successfully negotiate his way to an unidentified location. Call it anti-serendipity, but Jordan soon realizes that the kidnapper and the home intruder are the same sick man. Her mission becomes making sure Casey is saved from pending death.
The Call does many things well. Tension is abound and there are quite a few grotesque moments that are tough to stomach – the two play off each other well. Michael Eklund’s character has sociopathic sensibilities that go well beyond reason and he does a great job of being a total lunatic. The first two-thirds of the movie follow Abigail Breslin as she struggles to maintain sanity trapped in the trunk of a car. The movie is in pretty good shape during this period and is intense. But then the police find their way to Eklund’s neat suburban home where they encounter his motherly wife and two children (all of whom are clueless). It’s at this point that the movie begins to crack. Eklund’s rabid psychotic state and the peaceful home with a normal family just don’t work well together. Then there’s the little matter of Jordan leaving the Hive to seek-out Casey on her own...in the dark...in the middle of nowhere...and the movie goes into a full nosedive. It’s a shame too, because the movie carries quite a bit of promise. That’s not to say the nosedive ends in a total disaster. A viewer seeking raw entertainment might just find a safe landing at the end.
Rated R for violence, disturbing content and some language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/call5.jpg[/img]Sony Pictures delivers The Call with a solid 1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer presented in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film, shot digitally, generally has acceptable levels of detail with nary a hint of artifacts, blocking, or noise. Object rich scenes such as the Hive and the kidnapper’s lair bristle with loads of details and objects. The film begins with an even color palate, inky deep blacks, and flesh tones that appear natural. Dark scenes have a slight greenish tint and a small amount of lens flair can be seen from time to time.
The film, however, makes an about face at the fifteen minute mark and takes on a much hazier appearance with tan overtones. Contrast, as seen in the first fifteen minutes, drops and blacks take on a much grayer appearance. This affects everything from overall detail to sharpness. The change is noticeable but this problem remains true to the film’s theatrical presentation. The film’s video presentation would have been better without the shift.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/call4.jpg[/img]The Call thrills with an excellent HD-DTS MA 5.1 presentation. The backbone of the presentation is John Debney’s (Iron Man 2, Sin City) original score that packs a serious punch with a slick industrial techno-esque sound. It keeps the front soundstage incredibly alive as sounds dance left and right, increasing the stage’s width and height while occasionally falling to the rears. The score also features excellent low bass that intensifies and quickens as tension builds in the film.
The presentation has an adequate amount of surround activity, including the hustle and bustle of the Hive, recorded 911 calls, helicopters, and various outdoor ambient sounds. There are also several interesting moments where the surrounds are used to accentuate an effect (such as a scream that rages to the rear channels). Meanwhile, the front soundstage accurately follows on-the-screen movements such as police cars racing from left to right. Through the storm of the musical score and sound effects, dialog is easy to understand and remains intelligible for the duration of the movie.
The Call’s sound presentation is one of the film’s highlights and seems to only get better as the film progresses.
• Alternate Ending
• Audio Commentary
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Emergency Procedures
• Inside the Stunts
• Michael Eklund Audition Footage
• Set Tour of the Call Center
• Set Tour of the Lair
The Call isn’t a great film, but it’s not a bad one either. If anything it’s a decent hour and a half of thrilling entertainment that attempts to have some grounding to reality – but that’s all. The Blu-ray presentation does a good job of presenting the movie, warts included (with the biggest wart being a head-scratching loss of black levels and contrast). The audio, especially the original score, is very pleasing with some excellent moments. The special features are nothing to write home about, but they do contain some of the most disturbing footage on the disc. If you’re curious, then checkout Michael Eklund’s Audition Footage. I found it to be just a bit too bizarre for my own comfort level (I'll spare the details to keep some intrigue). If you’re not a fan of thrillers that tilt toward horror, I’d probably skip The Call. But if you’re a fan of the genre and enjoy some intense terror and gore then give it a watch.
Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Written by: Richard D'Ovidio
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Studio: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 94 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 25, 2013
Buy The Call Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rental for fans of Horror-Thrillers