Drenched in vibrant, neon-splattered 80s nostalgia and underscored by a hypnotic synth track that would make John Carpenter proud, Timothy Woodward Jr’s The Call is a plucky little horror that, despite – or rather because of – its outrageously schlocky sensibilities, demonstrates plenty of potential and creativity in its initial setup. However, as events progress the flick ultimately devolves into a bland affair that’s simply unable to do anything interesting with its premise.
It’s 1987 and Chris (Chester Rushing) has moved to a new town and school where he befriends archetypical cool girl Tonya (Erin Sanders), Zack (Mike Manning), the rebellious tough guy, and his introverted brother Brett (Sloane Morgan Siegel). After a night at the carnival, the group decide to vandalise the home of one Edith Cranston (Lin Shaye), an elderly woman accused of the disappearance of Tonya’s sister. However, this confrontation appears to be too much for Edith as she takes her own life on the same night.
The next day the group receive a call from her husband (Saw’s Tobin Bell) summoning them to his home. Upon arrival they’re invited to participate in a game: stay on a phone call for one minute to receive a life-changing sum of money. What they don’t expect is who is on the line waiting for them.
The experience of genre giants Shaye and Bell sharing the screen is an utter delight. Both veterans give suitably sinister performances in every frame they’re in, especially Bell, whose menacing presence is at once captivating and threatening. The same cannot be said for the younger cast members though. Frequently wooden in their delivery, these performances give the film an uncomfortable awkwardness that even Shaye and Bell can’t fix.
It’s not just the central cast who fall flat either. This horror is similarly unable to deliver in its scares. Regardless of the spectacular cinematography and all-out style of the spooky set pieces, these sequences boil down to little more than waiting for the inevitable jump to happen before the film can move on to the next scene.
Like everything else in this production, all the encompassing mystery, suspense and promise that enticed viewers in the first place slowly fizzles out by the climax. Ending on a note that’s as hollow as its scares, The Call is an unsatisfying stab at blending 80s nostalgia with ineffective and outright uninspired modern tropes.
The Call is released digitally on demand on 11th January 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Call here: