Fede Alvarez’s (Don’t Breathe) Apple TV show Calls is shaping up to be a white-knuckle ride filled with thrills and suspense. The show is an English language adaptation of the French series of the same name, created by Timothée Hochet. Featuring the sensational cast of Karen Gillan, Lily Collins, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Nicholas Braun (and that’s just in the first two episodes), Apple’s newest addition is a Twilight Zone-esque collection of short stories told exclusively through phone call recordings, accompanied by minimalist visuals. The effect is an immersive, intriguing, and downright chilling viewing experience that will leave viewers hungry to find out how these seemingly self-contained stories connect further down the line.
While the thought of a primarily audio-based series might seem like something that can be played in the background, like a podcast or radio play, doing so would be a grave mistake. The visuals are just as integral to creating the intoxicating atmosphere. Colourful lines swell, collide, twist and break apart, as the onscreen transcript of the calls moves around the screen in a manner matching what’s being described. In a clever subversion of conventional storytelling methods, the sound design has taken centre stage, while the visuals work to heighten the mood as if it were the music.
Moreover, the short stories featured in the first two episodes make for a promising start to the series. The first details a couple (Gillan and Braun) in a long-distance relationship, who encounter an intruder in their homes. The second sees a man (Taylor-Johnson) find himself in some sort of time anomaly as he drives down a desert road. Each begins as a rather mundane – and somewhat clichéd – scenario, but as these episodes, progress their events slip into the surreal and insane. With no visuals to latch onto, the terror of these tales is rooted entirely in the unknown, proving once again that the unseen is infinitely more terrifying.
Calls is a thrilling and highly entertaining viewing experience that brings an experimental format to English-speaking audiences. If the first two episodes are a measure of what’s to come and the larger narrative is as engrossing as the shorter stories, Alvarez’s show is on track to becoming a landmark in contemporary television.
Calls is released on Apple TV+ on 19th March 2021.
Watch the trailer for Calls here: