An old woman is tormented to death and her tormenters are lured into dialing her up in her grave as punishment in “The Call,” a thriller so derivative it gives “derivative” a bad name.
It’s another “face your personal nightmares” tale, another script inspired by “Long Distance Call,” a “Twilight Zone” episode and somewhat less interesting than any other movie by this title — and there’ve been a few.
Chester Rushing plays Chris, the “new kid in town,” who arrives at Willow Falls High School in mid-school year, and under a cloud. But flirty Tanya (Erin Sanders) doesn’t know that. She invites him to join “tough guy” Zach (Mike Manning) and his obedient brother Brett (Sloane Morgan Siegel) for a night at the carnival, with a little added “fun” to finish off the evening.
Tanya’s little sister disappeared years before, and she blames the day care operator who last saw her. Let’s go over and toss bricks through her windows!
The old woman, played by horror legend Lin Shaye, confronts them, refuses to back down and rages “As much as you hate me, I hate you more.”
But she’s suffered from this sort of judgment and abuse for years, and the love of her husband (horror legend Tobin Bell) isn’t enough to placate her. She takes her life.
So the husband summons the kids to the house for a proposition. Go upstairs, make a call to a number he’s provided, and stay on the phone for a full minute. They have to do this one-by-one, but the payoff for anybody sturdy enough to last that long is $100,000, which was seriously money back in 1987.
The catch? Mr. Cranston installed a landline to his late wife’s grave. If anybody answers, “You don’t have to worry about me,” he whispers.
The quartet of kids will have face the terrors of their childhood, conventional but horrific, each in their own way. Will they survive revisiting those during “The Call?”
Shaye plays the harassed woman with her usual (limited range) panache, and nobody whispers propositions or threats like Mr. Jigsaw himself, Bell. The rest of the players? Meh.
Shaye and Bell lift this thin, over-familiar material, but not enough to compensate for the trite terrors that turn up, the dead spots in the narrative and cardboard characters one and all are saddled with playing.
Don’t leave a message, don’t answer the phone, don’t make “The Call.”
MPA Rating: unrated, violence, profanity
Cast: Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Mike Manning, Sloane Morgan Siegel, Tobin Bell and Lin Shaye
Credits: Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr., script by Patrick Stibbs. A Voltage, a Shudder release.
Running time: 1:37