Friday, August 31, 2012

The Caller (1987)

I've always been attracted to films with few characters or set on a confined space. That might be the reason why I LOVE Alien clones or even slashers, who often depends on a bunch of idiots stuck in the same camp/hospital/theatre etc. The Caller is very interesting just because of this, but also because it's a production from Empire Picture and produced by Charles"Full Moon" Band. Band himself is a guy that both can give us CRAP, but at the same time both director and produce minor horror classics, packed with imagination and passion. Puppet Master is an old favourite of mine, but he's also the producer behind Stuart Gordon's masterpiece Dolls.

One day night a stranger, The Caller (Malcolm McDowell) appears at the doorstep of The Girl (Madolyn Smith Osborne), his car has broken down and he needs to borrow the phone to call for help. Soon they both understand that the other one not really what he ands he claims to be, and they start cross-examine each other. This goes on for couple of days - not only in the house - and slowly they're getting closer to solve the mystery...

Director Arthur Allan Seidelman's only claim to fame was his first movie, the terrible, awful, Hercules in New York - starring a slightly stoned Arnold Schwarzenegger. If I knew it was him behind the wheels of this film I wouldn't have bought it, but I'm happy I was living in a bubble of not knowing it - 'cause The Caller is a great little mystery thriller, better than I thought it would be, and way wilder than I ever could imagine. It's hard to discuss a movie where the twist is so extreme in its absurdness without mentioning it, but after studying the movies from the same time and the work of Band its actually quite understandable why this movie came to be. It has everything that was trendy at the time, but executed so different and so classy that it probably just scared away the audience, resulting in a lot of people missing out a little gem of a movie.

The Caller has Malcolm McDowell and Madolyn Smith Osborne in frame for most of the time, there's not other actors - not even extras in the background - which makes it even cooler. It reminds me a lot about something that could have been a play, except for the special effects in the end that never would be convincing on the stage. Both actors is splendid, even if it's easier to raise McDowell as the best just because he's so colourful and charismatic, but Osborne gives us one helluva performance, even more intensive and physical than McDowell.

What might scare away audiences that I know will love it in the end is that it's very talky. I mean, it's based on dialogue - good dialogue - but a lot of dialogue. It's also quite flat, almost like a TV-movie. Because of the build-up, which lasts for ninety minutes, don't expect gore, violence or even horror - this is a mystery that takes it times and then delivers something very bizarre and unexpected. I didn't expect it! Maybe - just maybe - it could be considered a deus ex machina, but hey... I really don't think so. I think it's smarter than that, even if it leaves out a lot of answers.

The Caller is a really good, fun and (quite) smart mystery thriller with a wonderful cast and a great script.


Anonymous said...

"I've always been attracted to films with few characters or set on a confined space."

Me provides a lot of challenges for a filmmaker.

"starring a slightly stoned Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Sure about that, Ninja?

I´ve seen clips of this performance....this could be Ahnuld in uncensored, raw and uncut in 70´s.

Check out the DVD commentary for Conan the Barbarian (1982)on Youtube with John´s a riot!

"Maybe - just maybe - it could be considered a deus ex machina, but hey... I really don't think so."

Those kind of endings I generally don´t like....but hey...if I´m the right doesn´t matter.

Good review Ninja....thanks for the tip.


Ninja Dixon said...

Thanks Megatron. I would love to hear your opinion about this movie :)