Blu-ray Review: THE CALLER - This Is One Call You Won't Mind Missing

The humble telephone has often been used to great effect in the horror genre. There is something inherently creepy about a disembodied voice at the other end of the line. A number of films have set their whole premise around the nuisance call; When A Stranger Calls, One Missed Call and not forgetting the Scream movies. Brit director Matthew Parkhill and writer Sergio Casci throw a time bending twist into their phone based horror The Caller, released on Blu-ray and DVD today, with stars Rachelle Lefevre, Stephen Moyer and Ed Quinn, all better known for playing vampires in True Blood and the Twilight Saga. The Caller follows newly divorced Mary (Rachelle Lefevre) as she moves into a new apartment to start a new life. She begins to receive phone calls from a mysterious woman she first dismisses for a wrong number but as the calls continue Mary eventually begins to strike up an unlikely friendship with the woman, whom she discovers is called Rose. As the calls become more regular, Mary becomes disturbed by Rose€™s claims that she is calling from Mary€™s own past. As her sense of being haunted escalates an alarmed Mary tries to cut off all contact but Rose makes it frighteningly clear that she does not want to be ignored. With Rose threatening a terrible revenge, the two become embroiled in a petrifying game of cat and mouse that traverses time through Mary€™s past and present. At its heart the film has a pretty interesting premise that brings to mind the similarly themed thriller Frequency. Director Parkhill manages to wring a fair amount of tension from scenes essentially comprising of a woman having a conversation on the phone. The film's Puerto Rico setting adds to the unsettling atmosphere, the location has a real lived in feel to it and helps make Mary€™s €œfish out of water€ situation seem more immediate and solitary. Parkhill and cinematographer Alexander Melman try to keep things interesting by inventive use of the camera with really nicely composed shots and an effective use of colour throughout the film. Despite all the directorial flourishes, sadly it is the performances that really let the film down giving the film a real direct to video feel. It is easy to see why Lefevre was replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard in the Twilight Saga when her character Victoria took a more central role in the third film. She lacks the range required to fully flesh out the character of Mary in The Caller. As the film progresses she fails to convince that the mysterious calls are having any real effect on her as she basically sleepwalks through the film leaving me caring very little for her by the end of the film. While I appreciate it may be a difficult task to maintain a level of realistic emotion when the majority of scenes are literally just Mary talking on the phone reacting to what is being said, I still think that in the hands of a more accomplished actress the role would have had more of the required depth to make the character work. Interestingly, it is revealed in the special features that Brittany Murphy was originally cast in the lead role but was fired shortly before her untimely death last year. Whether she could have brought more to the role will never be known but it is curious that they went from a well established star to a relative newcomer. Without a strong lead character there is little hope for the supporting roles and they are nearly all confined to predictable stereotypes. Ed Quinn plays Mary€™s violent ex-husband whose only purpose seems to be to harass Mary in between her telephone exchanges with Rose and his character adds little to the film. Stephen Moyer plays a slightly larger role as Mary€™s new friend, confidant and, despite a lack of chemistry, lover but even his character is there only to provide padding to the story and to accommodate one of the films more predictable twists. The only supporting role that stands out above the rest is the voice of Rose, played by Drag Me To Hell€™s Lorna Raver. While we never actually see her she has more presence in the film and out acts all involved. Without a decent actress taking this role the film really would have fallen flat but Raver really connects with Rose and the turn from friendly to sinister is truly convincing. With such a strong premise and all the possibilities that dealing with a connection through time could offer the film fails to fully realise the potential of the idea instead going for some rather obvious twists, turns and not very surprising jumps. The sums of all its parts add up to an unfocused 90 minutes with too many distracting sub-plots slowing the overall pace, too many unanswered questions and a general disjointed feel to the whole film. Parkhill makes a good effort with some visual invention but even this quickly runs out of steam as the story meanders towards its denouement. Ultimately The Caller is a missed opportunity that fails to leave a lasting impression. Quality The picture quality is very good throughout, as I mentioned in the review the director€™s use of colour is well considered and benefits from the 1080p presentation on the Blu-ray reflecting the range of colour in use. Despite the majority of the film taking place in a dimly lit apartment the transfer never loses detail in the murkiness of the room. As the main crux of the film are the phone calls between Mary and Rose you would hope for a good sound mix to ensure this is well presented and this disc does not disappoint. In addition to the conversational aspects of the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track there are layers of sound effects subtly blended to give an overall unsettling and disturbing edge to the aural presentation. Extras The disc is well served with a number of special features. Firstly the four deleted scenes which add nothing to the original cut and an extended ending which sets up a potential sequel but I doubt very much that that will actually happen. The best extra is probably the making of documentary featuring interviews with Parkhill and screenwriter Sergio Casci. The short but informative featurette running for 20 minutes covers many of the key aspects of the film€™s production with many revealing insights into changes and decisions made during the making of the film. Parkhill is clearly enthusiastic about his film and has plenty to say on the subject and his feature length audio commentary goes into further detail about the story behind the film. Film €“ 2 out of 5 The Caller has a really good premise but fails to realise its full potential and with poor performances as well is ultimately a massive disappointment. Visuals €“ 4 out of 5 The film looks great thanks to the director€™s eye for detail and a decent HD transfer. Audio €“ 4 out of 5 For a film that spends most of its running time with people talking on the phone the soundtrack could have been quite dull, instead it is a multi-layered offering that has had as much careful consideration as the visuals. Extras €“ 3 out of 5 A relatively unremarkable set of extras with deleted scenes and an alternate ending that add very little but the informative making of documentary and interview with the director is worth a watch. Presentation €“ 2 out of 5 Fairly typical direct to DVD style artwork and basic menus. Overall €“ 3 out of 5 A time-bending horror that squanders its potential with too many sub-plots and unanswered questions losing focus on its central premise however it looks and sounds great on Blu-ray and is reasonably well served with special features. The Caller is available on Blu-ray from today.
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