Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Call (2013)

I’m getting really tired of serial killers. Since the classics like Dirty Harry through modern-day marvels like The Pledge or Zodiac, the genre has spawned some amazing films. But it happens with every fad. From slasher horror movies in the 80s to ghost stories in the 90s to exorcism stories in the 2000s and finally to the vampires and zombies currently polluting our airwaves, movie theaters and bookshelves, it happens – a genre gets oversaturated, like a fat kid whose parents didn’t teach him when to stop eating cake. At some point, you reach the bottom of the barrel.

The Call is the bottom of the fucking barrel.

Director: Brad Anderson
Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin

No, wait – it’s not. It’s not just the bottom; it’s right through the barrel and into another barrel. It’s just so amazing that this movie got past the censors at all without someone running screaming into the bathroom, clawing out his eyes and screaming profanities in tongues he never knew he could. Maybe that happened after the premiere. I dunno.

Either way it’s a marvel – a film that, admittedly, has a somewhat decent premise: an emergency call operator has to coach a kidnapping victim through her ordeal and try to save her from a killer. But the film apparently used up its entire two and a half brain cells coming up with that. So the execution of that plot is … how shall I put it in the most eloquent of terms? Oh yeah. Completely fucking mongoloid retarded.

We start off with a bunch of disembodied voices calling 911 for various emergencies. As the film’s central character is a 911 operator, I guess it kinda makes sense. To tell the truth this is an interesting enough concept for an opening, and sets a certain mood … if the acting weren’t so bad I’d rather watch a bunch of Kindergarteners try and perform King Lear in another language.

We then get some girl being chased by a killer. She hides under the bed and calls 911. When the killer can’t find her, he starts to just leave – I guess he must be the ‘easily discouraged’ kind of killer. If he can’t find someone to kill within a few minutes, he just goes home and watches Friends reruns. But once he hears the 911 operator on the phone, he comes back and grabs her from under the bed. When the operator, played by Halle Berry, threatens the killer that the police are on their way, he takes it well and stabs the girl to death right there in the room.

Don't put the camera that close to her face, you'll kill her!

So of course, after that, he’s caught and spends the rest of the movie on trial. Oh, wait, no. He gets away and somehow doesn’t leave a trace that could lead the police to him. Yup – that’s right. He somehow gets away with that, escapes before the cops arrive and they don’t find anything. Yeah, all that blood and gore all over the place, no DNA on the body, no fingerprints all over the house where he was walking around – it’s just too difficult.

Amazingly enough, the movie that can’t even master the basic tenets of reality actually tries to introduce a second plot line into the mix. And not only that, but one about teenage girls. Gee, it won’t have anything shallow or cliché like having them talk about nothing but boys and sex, will it? Of course it will. Exactly that.

I just don't think movies without even the basic sense of realism can tackle something as complex and nuanced as teenage relationships - why even try? You'll fail. You fuckin' know you will. Unless you have real teenagers writing the script, you'll fail.

So they exchange some bland dialogue that sets up the main girl going off alone to the parking garage where she’s almost hit by some guy. It turns out to be the killer though, as he grabs her from behind in broad daylight and stuffs her in a trunk. Amazing – he must be the luckiest man in the world for nobody to notice him doing this in the middle of a parking lot at a public mall in the middle of the day. Truly astounding. And if you can believe it, the movie only gets worse from here in terms of the killer’s bizarre lucky contrivances.

Like the very next scene which shows her in the trunk of the guy's car. He doesn’t bother to tie her up or gag her or even take away her cell phone. Are you fucking kidding me? The killer from I Know Who Killed Me would be laughing at you right now! How the hell has this guy been doing this for so long? Like you’d expect, the girl calls 911 and immediately gets them on her trail. So she talks to Halle Berry a bit, making chit chat, and also being counterproductive by babbling and crying like an insane person the entire time.

If you're kidnapped and you call 911, wouldn't it make sense to shut up and listen to what the operator has to say? I mean, wouldn't that be actually helpful? Isn't that like going to a fast food restaurant and standing in line, endlessly deliberating on your choice of food whilst talking to the cashier about your love life? Nobody wins there.

Don’t get me wrong, I get it – she’s scared. But she never shuts up. How is Berry supposed to help this chick when she’s non-stop blubbering and screaming over everything Berry says? Isn’t that counterproductive? Fortunately, Berry finally gets her to shut the fuck up for two seconds, and lo and behold that’s when they actually get stuff done. For a while, it actually looks like the girl is gonna escape – she kicks out the taillight and actually gets people to notice her in the car.

It's just one of those weird Japanese models. The car with an arm sticking out of it - truly an avant garde make and model.

But the killer catches on because of a serious thorn in the side of every serial killer movie victim – the good Samaritan. Some lady calling 911 tries to get a look at him to describe him to the police, and that tips him off, so he pulls off the highway and into a wide open parking lot just off the highway. He opens up the trunk right there and threatens her – you’d think that would prompt someone to notice this, but nope, apparently open spaces with no cover in the middle of a sunny day in a big city are a blind spot for most people. He threatens her a bit, but doesn’t bother to take away her phone or restrain her at all even after she’s caused him trouble now.

"I'm gonna keep threatening you and stuff, but gagging you or making sure you can't make noise? Nah, that would be stupid."

Dude, seriously, what the FUCK is your deal? I know I’m becoming a broken record here, but HOW DOES NOBODY NOTICE THIS SHIT?!? How does this guy NOT see that leaving her untied and able to thwart his schemes is a bad idea for him? Maybe the other victims just went quietly and didn’t mind being kidnapped and the guy got used to that? I hate to break it to you, genius, but most people don’t like being stuffed in a trunk and kidnapped. Most people are going to fight you if you do that!

Oh, who the hell cares – get caught for all I care, you moron. Why don’t you just murder someone brutally in broad daylight and then put him and the girl in the trunk of a different car? I’m sure nobody will notice, in this magic fairytale land the movie takes place in.

And yes that’s exactly what happens next.

Fortunately we transported to the Twilight Zone where we're the only people in the world, and that's why nobody can see us doing this even though we're clearly right next to a freeway!

How many other ways can I possibly keep saying the same thing? I just can’t comprehend how anyone thought this plot would work. It’s so stupid it’s impossible to even really joke about it. I mean it’s just so far removed from any conceivable reality. What other jokes can I even make? The film just keeps constantly doing the same horrible, nonsensical mistakes over and over again! Hell, it doesn't stop there - it turns out he didn't even kill the guy, and so he throws him in the trunk with the girl. Then when the guy starts amazingly and unexpectedly making noise, as the killer didn't restrain him either, he goes back there and stabs the guy a bunch of times:

But that's not the stupid part. That isn't the part that will absolutely kill you: after killing that guy, the killer takes his phone away! So it isn't just like he doesn't know that cell phones exist or something. He could have apparently very easily taken away the girl's phone too, and prevented her from doing anything harmful to him like calling 911. But that wouldn't fit the movie's ludicrous plot, so that couldn't happen! Ha ha ... I'm losing my mind.

Sigh. Oh, and here’s a great tip: if you’re a serial killer, and you plan to have a kidnapped victim locked in your car unrestrained and not gagged at all, make sure NOT to fucking go fill up your car with gas beforehand. And when some poor sap inevitably notices that you have a kidnapped girl in your car, douse him with gasoline and light him on fire right there in the gas station! Isn’t that brilliant?!


The stupidity continues like a bad hangover. So I guess there’s some plot about the cops finding the killer’s wife and kids … so, yeah, he has a wife and kids and somehow still finds time to go out all the time and execute ridiculously complex kidnapping schemes. Which will seem even stupider in just a few scenes. But mostly during these scenes you won't be wondering about any of that; you'll be thinking, "why does that killer have such a stupid looking mugshot?"

Yeah, amazing, isn't it? It looks like he's doing a purposefully goofy jackass face in a joke picture; you know the ones. Like after you take a few serious photos you go "Okay, now it's time for the silly one! Make the most ridiculous face possible!" That's what this is.

Meanwhile at random underground lair, we learn the secrets to kidnapping: like, when you want to wash someone’s hair, it’s imperative that you cut their shirt off. Never mind the excuse to show teenage girl boobs! IT MAKES SENSE!

I checked to see if maybe I was overreacting and the girl was already above 18. But nope, she was around 17 when making this, so yeah ... the film is just a big pedophile.

As the cops have figured out who the killer is, the boss at the emergency dispatch place tells Halle Berry to go on home. But she can’t go home! She has to save the day! So, yeah, she actually goes out to try and find the killer and the girl on her own.

I … I just got nothin’. I don’t know what to say anymore. The 911 operator goes to save a kidnapped girl. Is this just some kind of ridiculous fantasy? Maybe the writers just thought Berry was still playing Storm or Catwoman and just got the scripts mixed up with the ones from those movies. I dunno. Either way it’s awfully written, and makes me ashamed to speak the same language. If aliens ever come to Earth and ask who’s responsible for making The Call, infuriated and ready to destroy our planet as I know they will be, I will pretend I don’t speak a word of English.

So through some of the most boring scenes put on film in 2013, we get the killer’s backstory. Are you ready for this? It’s a gem: basically, his sister had cancer and died, so now he kidnaps girls who look like her, scalp them and then throw their scalps into a fridge with a bunch of other scalps.

"NOBODY WILL UNDERSTAND UNLESS WE SHOW PICTURES OF THE KILLER WITH A GIRL WITH CANCER! PEOPLE CAN'T GRASP THE COMPLEXITIES OF THIS STORY!" Ugh ... seriously, movie, just fuck off. The human mind isn't just some simple little crossword puzzle you can connect the dots with. It's not that linear. 
Okay, fuckin' seriously; this is the bottom of the barrel, the absolute nadir. This is where serial killer movies have finally come to. Scalped heads of hair in a fridge. My god. I have no words. Why don't we just start making reality TV shows about serial killers, glorifying them and making them movie stars? I mean, since we're clearly not interested in portraying them in any meaningful way.

THAT MAKES NO SENSE. Movie, you go bash your head against a slab of raw cow meat until you come up with something else. Because I guarantee you it would be better than THIS.

Seriously; what the hell is this? This is what serial killer movies have come to? You couldn’t come up with anything more interesting or realistic than THAT? Christ. Scooby Doo episodes have been more plausible. It’s just so ridiculous because, aside from being goofy as fuck, serial killers don’t act like this. Yes, they probably have some psychological issues that lead to their trauma – I’m betting most of them do. But just simplifying it like this, going from point A (‘My sister died from cancer’) to point B (‘I want to scalp young girls so they look like her’) is just so insulting.

It’s not interesting! There is absolutely nothing positive or enlightening to be gained from a story like this, or indeed, like many recent serial killer films. It is downright insulting to take the human condition and turn it into something this grotesque, goofy and parodic. It is insulting to both the real life study of these killers and to good storytelling. Basically, fuck this shit.

Sigh, so what? They end up outsmarting the killer by smacking him a few times and then locking him down in that cellar forever? Snore. I love the line the killer says when he sees Berry. He looks up at her with just a spark of knowing in his eye, and goes “oh, you’re the 911 lady.” Fuckin’ seriously? I love how he says he “thought she would be taller.” Oh yeah, because a serial killer totally has time to ponder about what the lady on the phone with 911 would look like in person, right? I guess with the minimal amount of thought he put into his killing schemes though, IT MAKES SENSE THAT HE WOULD THINK ABOUT THAT.

This movie was just horrendous. It was dumb scene after dumb scene. The first half is admittedly kind of enjoyable just for how ludicrous it is. But like a child repeating its own dumb mistakes well into adulthood – after a while it just gets old. The second half of this is grueling, unpleasant and nasty as hell, without anything good about it.

The whole idea is just ridiculous, like I said; how am I supposed to get invested in a stupid-ass story about some dingbat crybaby serial killer who doesn’t even possess the common sense to know that just throwing a conscious person, unrestrained, into your trunk might not make them very happy?

It’s contrived as shit. I mean there were a million better ways to do this plot. How about if she was running around in an open area, like the woods, and the killer was hunting her? Maybe she has to keep in touch with 911 so the GPS can track them, but the killer keeps closing in by the sound of her voice. Wouldn’t that be better?

But no, people just eat up anything with a serial killer plot now, all thanks to Dexter and some other movies and shows that got popular – so nobody thinks they have to try anymore. So we get fetid bullshit like this and The Following. I know there’s a lot to be said for opinions, and in a way I can see how people would like it – the fast pace and racy themes are enticing for someone who just wants goofy entertainment. But it’s not good. It’s junk.

Fuck this movie, fuck The Following, fuck all of it. Just go watch Prisoners instead. Now there’s a killer movie!

…. No pun intended.

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