Sunday, April 11, 2010

One A Week Reviews #14: When A Killer Calls

One very overdue One-A-Week review here. Yeah, I know I'm behind but I'm just one man and I've been honkin' busy. I will catch up, I promise, and thanks for hanging with me. There's also plenty of spoilers ahead, but hey, this has been on DVD for several years. 

The lovely people at The Asylum have made some success for themselves creating straight-to-video knock-offs of big screen films that they get in the stores in what I'd guess is the hope that inattentive DVD renters and purchasers will get their title instead of the one they were actually looking for. With titles like Transmorphers, Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, and The Day the Earth Stopped they ain't exactly makin' art. In fact, they call what they make "Mockbusters." They're generally good-time films if you just wanna kick back with some popcorn and enjoy some brain candy.

When A Killer Calls is their take on their rip-off of the remake of When A Stranger Calls. Now perhaps I'm at a disadvantage by not seeing that remake, but I've seen the original Stranger. The first act, babysitter vs. phone, is stunning and genuinely scary. The second act follows the killer for an hour, then the final act returns to him scaring the babysitter, now a parent. Pretty good, pulpy B-Movie. I'm not sure how the PG-13 remake was, but I remember being shocked with the original that the killer knocked off the kids. (Remember, in the original, Jill survives because she's a terrible babysitter).

Killer opens with a surprisingly nasty scene where a girl, who we're assuming is a babysitter, gets a knife in the mouth and then the killer chases and murders two young children. I don't consider kids and pets to be the cinematic "Sacred Cows" most people do, but none of us are really prepared to see up-close slashings of screaming child actors. We then turn to Tricia, played by the lovely Rebekah Kochan of the Eating Out series. (A set of films I plan to air my views on one of these days.) Ms. Kochan is a trooper in the best B-movie actress sense in a part that mostly requires a lot of sitting and answering the phone, and a little running and screaming. She's good enough to make this film more engaging than it has a right to be and I hope she has a successful career ahead of her.

Tricia shows up to babysit Molly while our Killer cleans up after his triple homicide Seems that while Tricia is charming Molly and plotting to have her boyfriend come over, the Killer has knocked off Molly's parents (!) and soon knocks off Molly as well. Sacred Cows, when aside from the usual teenagers a movie has a body count featuring 3 children and 2 parents it can be downright alienating. I'm not quite clear on at what point the Killer gets her cell phone number. I'd assume from Mom's cell phone, but he calls in his first hang-up before he kills the parents. For that matter he asks if she's found Molly before he's killer her. He's calling her on the cell phone and the land line before too long. Kind of nonsense logic. Again, alienating.

Tricia's fear escalates as the Killer peppers her with calls and pictures before her friends show up to "diffuse the tension," though really they're just more meat for the grinder. Soon enough the Killer is knocking everyone off -he makes pretty quick work of it, too - and Tricia is going to be last if she doesn't fight back. Turns out Tricia knows the family killed in the beginning and the Killer.

Also alienating is the look of this movie. Ugly and drenched in dim-blue that's nearly lavender sometimes, it's a muddy shot-on-video mess. The lighting blows out an orange comforter and turns Tricia's lipstick purple. The first 25 minutes are more like movie-by-Blacklight. I'm told this was shot on video with 35mm lenses, and the lighting does get a little better once the killer starts repeatedly calling Tricia. Is this intentional or just my imaginiation? Who knows?

The Scream-voiced killer sounds like he's reading back lines while listening to the original Stranger. Admittedly, though, when he starts sending her pictures of his previous murders via cellphone it's pretty darn creepy. His motives are rather cheesy but All the murders are presented rather brutally. The sheer nastiness killings and torture adds to the overall ugliness of the film. It's slow-going for the most part, but more gripping in places than you'd expect, thanks mostly to Ms. Kochan. All I know in the end is that I have to go shower to wash the sleaze off now...

Final thought: Most people I know (and myself) don't answer cell phone calls from "Restricted" or "Blocked" numbers. She should have done the same.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. Your thoughts were right on target. Yay for Rebekah Kochan! :-)