The Caller (2011)
Director: Matthew Parkhill
Writers: Sergio Casci
Starring: Rachelle Lefevre, Stephen Moyer, and Luis Guzman

The Plot: Mary Kee (Rachelle Lefevre) is in the process of getting a divorce from her violent and obsessive husband. When she finds herself a new apartment, all appears to be heading in the proper direction for her. Her ex-husband however doesn’t seem willing to let things go. She continually feels as if he is spying on her and constantly fears that he may show up whenever she least suspects it. Things get even creepier for her though when a woman named Rose starts calling her house. Rose seems incredibly confused and even refers to events of the past, such as the Vietnam war, as if they were going on right at this moment. While Mary deals with these strange happenings at home, she finds herself in a growing relationship with a teacher she has met at the same night-school that she attends. At first John (Stephen Moyer) doesn’t know exactly what to think of Mary and the continual phone calls from Rose, but it begins to really seem as if Rose might be making phone calls from the distant past. With Rose becoming more and more psychotic on the phone, these two will have to do battle with a figure who is literally living in their own past.

The Review
Upon reflection, my first thoughts about The Caller were that this would ultimately be another by-the-books piece of genre cinema. Sure, it has some science fiction trappings described in any brief synopsis you’ll find on the web, but this isn’t a title with any kind of massive marketing behind it. It doesn’t have the wave of adulation caroling it onto our DVD shelves as Session 9 did once upon a time ago. So really, how good can it be? Well, I won’t kid you and say it is the best thing since Star Wars, but I found myself surprisingly gripped by this smaller budgeted slice of independent horror. a very dark and genre-bending feature, The Caller establishes itself as a very strong foray into horror cinema. Director Matthew Parkhill and writer Sergio Casci aren’t big names on the radar just yet, but I know that I’m personally interested in any work that these men do in the future.

The Caller is a movie that sets its tone straight from the start. We watch on as the movie establishes its creepy atmosphere within the first few minutes by painting its canvass with a very grotesque style of set design that dominates the majority of the film. You can catch even a very small glimpse of the trailer and immediately pick up on these horror movie aesthetics, and director Matthew Parkhill does a good job of producing that look and quality throughout the duration of the film. Even in the scenes that don’t take place in the dingy apartment of our protagonist, the movie still retains an unsettling presence. If you were to even attempt to forget that you were watching a slick piece of horror, the spooky plot-development starts off very early as a reminder. We are actually greeted with the first “creepy phone call” in the first two or three minutes of run-time. When we are first introduced to Rose, the psychotic voice of the past, there becomes no question about the motivations of this film. It seems that Parkhill intends to strike that perfect balance between psychological horror and the traditional-thriller. The director shows an affinity for the work of Alfred Hitchcock, as well as the more traditional supernatural horror that one might have found in the Asian-horror-market of the past decade.

The cast for this film will definitely lend itself to a fair number of rentals at your local video store. Although I’m not familiar with the Twilight series, Rachelle Lefevre does pop up in those films and that alone is something that would be easy to promote for any distributor. Then you throw in a key cast member on the second most popular Vampire series on the planet, True Blood, and you’ve got a title that will likely be snaked up by women of all ages! Stephen Moyer, co-star on the previously mentioned True Blood, shows up and gives the film some more added star power. Lefevre and Moyer may both be known for their roles in other horror-related media, but both treat the script with a great deal of credence and their roles never rely on horror pastiche. I particularly enjoyed Moyer here, as he is allowed to ditch his faux-Southern-accent and exudes his natural charisma. Lefevre is strong in her role and plays her character with a great deal of subtlety but never comes across as cold or distant. Rounding out the cast is everyone’s favorite supporting actor Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights, Carlito’s Way) who is every bit as lovable as he always is. Truly he is the actor I gravitated to most when I first heard about the project.

The main focus here isn’t just on the stars though. We are given a pretty hefty little plot to go with the credible actors within the cast. Certainly something more creative than what you normally expect from a low budget genre film made in this day-and-age. The plot can actually seem like a lot to take in at times, and the overall story makes good use of the time travel device as well as the split narrative streams that Back to the Future popularized. The filmmakers really toy with the “what happens in the past will be directly felt in the present” concept and push those boundaries to their extreme, as one might expect from any good horror picture. After about the halfway point the entire film seems to focus on this time-based battle of wits, and for the most part it really does work.

The Conclusion
The Caller has its issues. As mentioned, it does battle with formula but there are many times where genre-conventions do win out. Although I commend it for the strident pace and its stubborn attempts to be a hard-thriller, for much of the movie you can sort of guess what is coming from around the corner. Still, for all of the formulaic things you may have seen in other movies, this one makes up for it in personality and in the original things that it does do. I give it a solid three out of five.