THE CALL movie poster | ©2020 Cinedigm

THE CALL movie poster | ©2020 Cinedigm

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Lin Shaye, Tobin Bell, Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Mike C. Manning, Sloane Morgan-Siegel, Judd Lormand
Writer: Patrick Stibbs
Director: Timothy Woodward Jr.
Distributor: Cinedigm
Release Date: October 30, 2020

THE CALL is a generically-titled but otherwise solid horror movie. It has a decent premise, a good set-up that makes the right revelations at the right times, and smart casting in two key roles.

We’re in 1987, either because the filmmakers didn’t want to deal with the Internet and smartphones, or they just like the styles. They certainly go with the ‘80s ethos of having actors who look a little older than their teens playing high school students.

Chris Mitchell (Chester Rushing) arrives as a newcomer to the school, and is promptly greeted by Tonya (Erin Sanders), who is extremely friendly. We learn that something bad happened wherever Chris had been enrolled previously, his mother means well but is no help, and Tonya is nursing a tragedy of her own.

Tonya takes Chris to a carnival, where we meet her ex-boyfriend Zack (Mike C. Manning), who’d like to get back together with her. Zack’s younger brother Brett (Sloane Morgan-Siegel) is a loyal tagalong.

We learn that Tonya’s little sister Laura disappeared out of the daycare center run by Edith Cranston (Lin Shaye). Laura was never found. Edith was blamed, although nothing could be proved. The daycare center was forced to close, but Edith and her husband Edward (Tobin Bell) have remained in town.

Tonya, Zack, and Brett have tormented Edith and Edward (Tobin Bell) with acts of vandalism ever since. Tonight, they break windows at the Cranston house; Chris accompanies them, although he doesn’t participate in the violence. Edith comes out to confront them.

We see Edith and Edward at home with one another. Edward loves his wife very much, but she has been made miserable. Something happens, and Edward invites Chris, Zack, Brett, and Tonya to come back to the house. Each of them can win $100,000 if they’ll just make a phone call and stay on the line for one minute.

Since it’s 1987, there’s no way that any of the characters can have seen Bell’s iconic turn as Jigaw/John Kramer in the SAW franchise, which began in 2004. Nevertheless, we understand Chris and Tonya’s wariness – and wonder at Zack and Brett’s credulity – when Bell’s Edward extends an invitation to do anything. Bell is nothing if not sincere, but he exudes menace even when being mild.

Putting all the pieces in place takes a little longer than perhaps it should, but Patrick Stibbs’s screenplay eventually provides worthy revelations for everyone. Director Timothy Woodward Jr. has a pleasing visual style, finding ways to put pops of glittering color into darkened scenes, and maintaining both pace and creepiness.

Shaye is marvelous in a complicated role, Bell has enormous gravity, and the rest of the cast is persuasive.

For those who want to parse it out, THE CALL has a worthwhile message. For everybody, it’s a release well-suited for Halloween.

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