Klavan On The Culture

DVD: The Caller

Okay. It’s Halloween. You can’t get a date because you’re dressed up like a pumpkin. You want to watch a spooky movie but you’ve already seen all the scary classics and you’re so amazingly cool (for a guy dressed as a pumpkin) you’ve even seen the obscure-but-excellent Lake Mungo.  What should you watch?

Well, let me give a measured but generally favorable nod to this out of the way little picture, The Caller. Seems to be some kind of joint UK-Puerto Rico (of all things) production. Stars cute Canadian actress Rachelle Lefevre of Twilight fame.

The basic plot:  a woman caught in an ugly separation fight with her violent husband moves into a new apartment only to start receiving weird phone calls from a woman she doesn’t know. I won’t give away any more because the story provides a lot of surprises, all of them fair and some of them really eerie. The credit here, I’m guessing, goes to writer Sergio Casci who does a genuinely top-notch job of plotting. If this had been a well-written novella, it might well be a ghost story masterpiece.

As a film?  Well, it’s small—really small—almost a one-hander with really just a couple of locations. Its sense of time, place and situation are virtually non-existent. Where are they exactly? What does this girl do for a living? How come no one’s updated the phone? There are answers, if you’re watching carefully, but they’re just lines of dialogue that don’t really provide a feeling of context. And the classic ghost story technique of repetition—the caller calls, then calls again, then again, each time upping the ante—has always worked better on the page than on the screen where it can feel, you know, repetitive.

All that said, the plot is so interesting and unravels at such an expert pace that it may keep you going in ways a lot of these pictures don’t. It’s got some really worthwhile spooky moments. And while I won’t say it’s original, it’s different enough to feel fresh. All in all, it’s certainly worth a Halloween look, if you want something you haven’t seen before.

And get out of the pumpkin suit, man, you look like an idiot.