‘The Caller’ is a Tense Tale of Telephonic Terror [Watch]

The Caller

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This week, I am looking back on a 2011 film that may not win all the awards for airtight logic but it, nonetheless, entertains as a suspenseful and unnerving tale of telephonic terror. I am speaking of none other than Matthew Parkhill’s The Caller. 

The film follows recent divorcee, Mary (Rachelle Lefevre of the Twilight series), as she settles into her new apartment. We quickly learn that Mary’s ex-husband was controlling and abusive during their marriage and continues to cause trouble for her after the dissolution of their union. Shortly after settling into her new abode, Mary begins to receive phone calls from a woman named Rose (Lorna Raver of Drag Me to Hell). What makes the calls remarkable is that Rose appears to be calling from the past. As the communications become more frequent and Rose becomes more erratic, Mary begins to fear for her safety and sanity.   

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Screenwriter Sergio Casci (who went on to pen the script for the 2019 chiller, The Lodge) was wise to conceive Mary as a recent divorcee with a volatile ex-husband. Accordingly, we immediately see Mary saddled with turmoil that doesn’t pertain to the film’s primary storyline. But it proves an effective way to, almost immediately, generate a sense of unease and additionally helps to contextualize some of the decisions Mary makes. 

The frequent power plays by her ex-husband place Mary in a precarious position from the onset. As such, her situation begins to feel dire before Rose really demonstrates how dangerous she can be. The subplot with Mary’s ex also works to provide a bit of context as to why Mary continues to entertain Rose’s calls when it might seem illogical for her to do so. Although Rose is abrasive and comes on way too strong, I suspect Mary feels for her on the basis that they have both been victims of domestic abuse. And that gives a certain amount of credence to Mary continuing to talk with Rose, even after she proves to be unstable. 

As for how they actually connect in the first place, The Caller doesn’t spend much time explaining how Rose has managed to reach Mary from the past. But early in the film, Rose says: “People come together for a reason, Mary. It doesn’t matter how.” And I find that simple statement to be a far more effective explanation than an overly-complex attempt to illustrate the origin of the ripple in time. Less is usually more and this is no exception. 

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Space-time continuum aside, the film benefits from strong showings from its core cast. Perhaps the most noteworthy is Lorna Raver as Rose. Raver doesn’t really play Rose as an archetypal villain. Accordingly, she doesn’t seem menacing, more so than lonely at first glance. She sounds harmless and maybe even a bit maternal when she initially begins communicating with Mary. But Rose proves that first impressions aren’t all they are cracked up to be. As she continues to obsessively phone Mary, we start to see just how desperate and dangerous she is.   

Rachelle Lefevre also turns in an effective showing as Mary. She portrays her as broken and fragile from the abuse to which she has been subjected. But she believably rises to the occasion when pushed beyond her limits by Rose’s obsessive meddling and violent shenanigans. 

The Caller received somewhat mixed reviews upon release. And admittedly, it doesn’t get everything right. But the tension is palpable, the cast is impressive, and the storyline is entertaining. If you’re keen to check it out for yourself, you can find the film available as a digital rental or download via Amazon or iTunes. 

Lastly, if you’re a fan of under-seen cinema and are keen to chat more, you can find me on Twitter: @FunWithHorror



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