There’s low expectations around this feature. Backed by WWE Studios and with a straight-to-DVD vibe many would expect cheese. In many ways you do get some cheesy bits but you also get a rather enthralling little kidnap thriller. WWE Studios output has played to their audience generally but The Call defies a few expectations before becoming, oddly, a slasher film. The Call carries a definite 90s vibe but, judging by the low expectations accompanying it, the film is really quite fun.
The plotting certainly sees conventions rear their ugly head in a very Hollywood-esque climax but The Call has solid moments of suspense. The main body is heavy with dialogue and while some will laugh at certain lines, the interchanges between Abigail Breslin’s victim and Halle Berry’s victim (of other sorts) are believable and never stretch the patience. The female characters are not pathetic nor air-headed (as they are often inanely presented in thrillers) and that is to be admired in a film, which eventually becomes more of a slasher film in its final third. The finale lets the plot down a bit, feeling taken from almost an entirely different film. It is as if the genuinely suspenseful scenes of confinement and abduction have been given an explosive payoff to validate the billing.
Still, even at its worst moments, The Call is not as bad as many are ready to chastise it. The plot has an occasionally fresher approach to the material and even when devolving at the end, there are flourishes belonging to Psycho and Maniac. The Call is an odd film in all (thanks to that finale) but certainly an enjoyable one that offers some white knuckle thrills and is constantly entertaining. Critics will (and have) rip it apart for its trips, falls and occasional lags in logic but chances are people wanting to see this will not care. Brad Anderson directs a good film with its share of taut moments and the cast give it some class. Halle Berry is the best she has been (outside of the vastly underrated Cloud Atlas) in a while and Abigail Breslin plays a sympathetic but strong female character.
True the psycho at the centre falls into the familiar issues of family trauma but Michael Eklund is believably sadistic and slimy. The Call may be backed by a wrestling company (and features one of its stars in David Otunga – not bad in his part) but is not the explosion-fest, action-obsessed fodder you would perhaps expect. There are moments of flinching violence but the film mostly builds its suspense via conversation and one never expected to be saying that. The Call rewrites no rulebooks and many will cite the problems but for a film that so little was expected of, this is not merely brainless fun. The Call has some ideas and is engaging, enjoyable and occasionally thrilling.