In different hands and with different performers, The Caller may have been the most ridiculous piece of cinema this side of Xanadu (Not that Xanadu doesn’t have its charms. *cough*). Yet somehow, something caught my attention about this movie and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you. Despite a glaring flaw or two, The Caller is an underrated gem.
Let’s begin by saying first that I am a big fan of the film Frequency. Why am I telling you this – what could that time-warping, touching, father-son sci-fi/suspense/fantasy possibly have to do with little, indie horror The Caller? As it turns out… nearly everything. The Caller is pretty much the bizarro-world version of Frequency. Or at least, what Frequency would have been had the person on the other end of Jim Cavieziel’s phone not been his long-lost and beloved Dad 30 years in the past.
The Caller starts out like Sleeping With the Enemy – Twilight’s Rachelle Lefevre stars as Mary Kee, a woman escaping her sadistic husband and trying to start a new life for herself in a modest apartment in Puerto Rico (where the film was shot). She even has Julia Robert’s 1990’s hair! She goes back to college to make something of herself and even meets a handsome professor (True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer), despite the looming presence of her bullying ex. Other than that abusive jerkwad (the terrific Ed Quinn in a bit of a thankless role), her life had forward momentum. Too bad she answered the old rotary phone left behind in her apartment and spoke to Rose.
It’s easy to call Rose – the woman on the other end of the phone, as voiced by Drag Me to Hell‘s Lorna Raver – the antagonist, the “bad guy”. However, the film smartly hints early on that things may have been different for Mary had she not been so curt and dismissive of Rose first – nor given her the impetus to do what she does. Not that you can blame Mary… Rose was a tad annoying in her insistence that she could see her own ex “Bobby” in Mary’s very window. Mary didn’t want any part of some crazy bitch ex on the phone, but she also didn’t realize at first that Rose was calling… from 1979.
Once both parties figure out that they are speaking through time, things get serious. Initially they form a bit of a bond over their recent break-ups, but once Mary susses out that Rose is several slices short of a loaf – it’s too late. Rose is ingeniously evil (and hella resourceful for a single madwoman in 1979), and she begins to affect Mary’s daily life (and those around her) in increasingly disturbing ways.
The primary performances are strong: Lefevre carries the weight of the film with ease, which isn’t a simple feat with a movie about a time-spanning murderer; and Raver is once again terrifying and brilliant – even more impressive considering she’s only ever a voice. To what lengths Rose goes and what kind of havoc she wreaks through time is pretty intense, and artfully imaginative. More interestingly, The Caller is mature enough to ask to what extent Mary is responsible for these events – and those questions linger long after the credits roll.