Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Calling (Spoilers ahead)

Gosh, I've been a tad abysmal at this whole posting thing haven't it? You're probably all sick to death of reading me saying sorry and explaining why I've been unable to post, so let's just get on with it shall we?

The Calling (2014) Poster
Susan Sarandon and the guy from That 70's Show team
up to catch a serial killer, what more do you want?
I'm going to go ahead and warn y'all that spoilers are imminent within this review, but somehow I don't think you'll mind, as I highly doubt any of you are going to watch this film, and I can't really talk about it at length without going into spoiler territory, so otherwise this review would just be this:

Lisa Simpson: providing more reviews for Pop Culture Cynic than Rhona
So, straight off the bat, this was director Jason Stone's first full length film and boy does it show. It's awfully formulaic. Small town where nothing much happens is shaken when one of it's residents is murdered in a grotesque (their word, not mine) way. Enter alcoholic, worn out detective Hazel Micallef (Sarandon), poppin' pills like no tomorrow and doesn't need anyone's help. Next up is Detective Ben Wingate (70's guy Topher Grace), young and full of life and spirit and is everything Hazel isn't. It's clear to see where Stone got his influences: I feel like he probably watched Fargo and Se7en in the same night and thought to himself, "Heeeeeeeeeeeey. I gots an idea, so I do."

There really aren't many screencaps of this
film floating about, I don't think anyone has
watched it.
This also appears to be screenplay writer Scott Abramovitch's first full length feature film screenplay, which is equally as glaringly obvious. The screenplay really isn't particularly strong at all; the dialogue, though generally passable, is very clunky in parts, and the plot itself is something I have a lot of issue with. The killer is revealed to the audience fairly early on in the film, and it's explained to us that he's killing for religious reasons - he wants to use the people he's killing as sacrifices to bring back his death brother. The catch is that he needs the people he kills to be willing sacrifices. Key word being willing. As soon as it's revealed to us that the victims are willing (all of them suffering from some terminal illness or another), my interest in the detectives catching him kind of died a little. Like, I don't really care that much any more, these people wanted to die, they don't really need saving. This film is no longer a thriller.

Oh hey Marge- wait. nope.
Next is that there are a lot of these weird throw-away lines to do with Hazel's past - we can gleam that she lost her child somehow, she was married at some point, she was in the hospital (possibly for an overdose) and she's injured her back somehow. None of these get developed upon in the slightest, and sure it's great to let the audience piece things together themselves, some of these definitely could have done with some development for Hazel as a character. We don't know why she is the way she is and it makes it hard to identify or sympathize with her. It's possible that she miscarried her child, this put a strain on her relationship so her husband divorced her which led to her attempted overdose and this alcoholic, pill popping cycle. But that's me filling in a lot of them blanks, and there's other stuff in the film that contradicts this story. She also had this weird relationship with this guy who was literally in two scenes, Andy. They appeared to have possibly had a relationship in the past, but he's married now, and Hazel and his wife have some kind of rivalry? I don't know. So yeah, could've done with a bit more fleshing out.

Lastly is the fairly unsatisfying ending. Hazel is abducted by Simon (the murder) and it's made clear that he's going to use her as his final victim (he needed 12). He creates this concoction for her to drink which would kill her and Hazel (depressed having lost her child) is almost convinced to drink it. But then she literally just says no. She doesn't want to die. Which throws the killer's plan way off, since the whole point is that the victims need to be willing sacrifices. So he just kills himself. Like it's so unsatisfying. Hazel doesn't fight him off and escape, the other detectives don't do anything. He kills himself. The house catches fire so that creates our sense of threat and adventure I guess. When Ben visits Hazel in the hospital at the end of the film, the stock dialogue of:
"You did it."
"No, we did it."
I was just sitting there like, no. Y'all didn't do shit. You didn't catch him or arrest him or kill him. 

"Heard you were talkin shit." No, no Susan, I'm sorry- AAAAHHHHH.
Finally, this is the kicker, remember how I was saying that these killings were motivated by a religious belief that would result in bringing Simon's brother back from the dead? No? Well I just explained it again so there you go. Simon had been keeping his brothers body wrapped in towels soaked in formaldehyde in a camper van, this is discovered about halfway through the movie. At the end, after Simon has killed himself and all 12 willing victims have been sacrificed, detectives that we haven't met before go out to the camper van and investigate it and dun dun dun - the fucking body has moved, implying that it worked. Gah. No.

"Go on anon, send Rhona hate!"
Okay, I know I've been shitting on this movie a lot. But, I didn't entirely hate it. The film looked pretty nice visually and the performances were actually reasonably strong. It just goes to show however that good actors can't save a film that suffers from poor direction and writing. 

Till next week time follks!

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