‘Sorry Charlie’ Is Effective Urban Legend Horror [Popcorn Frights 2023 Review]

Sorry Charlie

The genius of indie filmmaking has been on full display this year with the release of several films utilizing tiny budgets, small casts, and single locations to create terrifying stories (Skinamarink, The Outwaters, the list goes on). Following this trend is Colton Tran’s film Sorry ,Charlie, which had its world premiere at the 2023 Popcorn Frights. While the film is predictable in much of its narrative and shallow in its look at trauma, Tran and writer Luke Genton deliver enough twists and turns to keep viewers on their toes.

Charlie (Kathleen Kenny) volunteers for a mental health hotline from home where she lives alone. Throughout the day she answers the phone to give advice to teenagers and listen to housewives. But in her solitude, she begins to suspect someone is watching her. But not just anyone; it’s “The Gentleman”, a terrifying figure who lures women outside with crying babies in hopes of raping them. And Charlie was previously a victim of his. Now, she’s pregnant with his baby and it seems he’s back to claim his progeny.

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Now, first off, I will say that the narrative, while trying to maintain some semblance of decorum in regard to trauma, does often fall into sensationalism and borderline exploitation. A smart third act from Genton keeps Sorry, Charlie from being a purely exploitative serial killer narrative, but it’s still challenging to watch especially for those who have experienced sexual assault. It’s trying to walk a line between fun urban legend horror and a take on a true crime story, and when the film hits its stride, it walks that line well. It’s overall deeply satisfying, the road to that satisfaction is just a little rocky.

Kenny does imbue Charlie with a lot of humanity, which is no easy task when you’re carrying the film on your shoulders. But Kenny’s compelling performance helps propel the narrative forward at a breakneck pace and keeps you invested in her journey every step of the way.

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From a technical perspective, Sorry, Charlie is firing on all cylinders to maximize every inch of space on the property to make it feel both claustrophobic and vast, while also ensuring the film is never visually repetitive. Charlie’s parked car is even used at points to make this feel bigger than a single-location horror film. On top of that, phone calls incorporate more characters, which has also been seen this year in films such as Trader and Monolith. These films illustrate a fascinating shift not just in how filmmakers are adapting to small budgets, but also regarding how audio is being experimented with more as a crucial storytelling tool.

Sorry, Charlie is an impressive feat of risk-taking for Tran and Genton. They’re asking their viewer for a lot of trust throughout the film’s more predictable beats, and those who invest in Sorry, Charlie will get that satisfaction. It’s just up to the viewer to decide if they’re willing to do just that.



While ‘Sorry Charlie’ is often predictable, director Colton Tran and writer Luke Genton deliver enough twists and one satisfying ending to keep viewers on their toes.



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