The Caller (1987)

lamorteavraisuoiocchiStarring Madolyn Smith Osborne, Malcolm McDowell

Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman

Expectations: Moderately high. I like Malcolm McDowell and Siedelman directed Hercules in New York!

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I like movies that are cinematic. They don’t always have to be this way, but it’s always going to help if it is. Barring the last few minutes of the film, The Caller is about as far from being cinematic as is possible, as the entire film consists of two people talking to each other for 95 minutes. You might think I’m exaggerating, and in this case I wish I was. Two people. 95 minutes. Non-stop talking. It feels like a long, talky play with the production values of an ’80s TV movie. Neither of those are my thing so clearly this is a movie I was never going to like. You might like it if those things are your things, though. Maybe.

The film opens with a woman getting gas while someone in a trench coat watches her from a nearby payphone. Sounds interesting, right? Don’t be fooled. She goes home to her cabin in the woods and removes a bloody hat box from the back of her jeep. Don’t be fooled. The woman then showers and calls her daughter to tell her that she’ll be so proud of her mommy for what she’s going to do. Intrigued? Don’t be fooled.

I’ll admit, I was fooled. I thought for sure these interesting elements would pay off in spades. This is, after all, a low-budget thriller. But then, after all this somewhat clever setup, a knock sounds at her cabin door and thus begins the first conversation between Madolyn Smith Osborne and Malcolm McDowell. They’re polite to each other as McDowell asks to use the phone to call a tow, but both parties seem to have information they shouldn’t. (Don’t be fooled.)

l_97007_f0e05260The Caller only has two actors, and there’s only so much you can do in a movie with two actors. I can definitely think of a few things better than endless, uninteresting conversations that ramble around the point. I may have found the dialogue excessive in Django Unchained, but at least Tarantino’s dialogue has the decency to be entertaining in its own right. The dialogue here just goes around in circles for minutes at a time, the players going back and forth like they were players in a game. (Don’t be fooled.) It’s all too surreal to be taken seriously, and you’ll have to suspend your disbelief pretty well to believe that any of this is actually taking place. But The Caller does acknowledge this, surprisingly, as reality is questioned several times throughout. (Don’t be fooled.)

But it’s too little too late, and really a couple of dropped hints that things are not what they seem, amidst a veritable sea of words, are never going to win over someone who isn’t already enjoying themselves. Likewise, the incredible gore FX in the closing minutes, where one character finds themselves on the business end of an electrical fire, aren’t enough to turn the tide. If only the preceding 90 minutes were more like the incredible melting hand and face FX, there would’ve been something here worth my time. These great FX didn’t make up for sitting through the movie, but at least the filmmakers saw fit to throw me an exposed phalange or two. Oh, and one guess what the two characters do after one of their faces has melted. If you said, “They have another conversation,” then you deserve a gold star. Literally nothing can stop the incessant talking heads in this movie!

The Caller was awful; I could barely stay awake. It’s no fault of the actors, though, as both Madolyn Smith Osborne & Malcolm McDowell perform admirable, melodramatic performances. They do their best with the material at hand, but with dialogue this uninteresting (to me) they can only do so much. I expected more from the director of Hercules in New York! That all being said, I’ve seen a number of positive reviews around the net, so it might just be a case of it not working for me. And if you’re intrigued enough to double-down on this movie, then you’re in luck because it was released to DVD via MGM’s Manufacture on Demand program and is available at Amazon.

Next week on Full Moon Tuesday, I need something much, much trashier to “cleanse” my palette, so I’ll be checking out 2003’s Birth Rite!

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