Don’t Answer the Phone | Varied Celluloid

Don’t Answer the Phone

Posted by JoshSamford On August - 22 - 2008
Originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis


Plot Outline: Our movie opens with a murder scene in Los Angeles; as a young nurse is preparing to unwind from her shift in her home at night, a local serial strangler/sex assaulter attacks and strangles the nurse and has intercourse with her corpse. After immediately associating ourselves with the killer, we soon discover he keeps himself up to date with his deep-seated psychosis by tuning in and calling up Dr. Gale, a practicing psychiatrist who runs an hourly radio talk show for individuals with mild problems (sort of like Travesty Ltd.’s Rock and Roll Doctor, just not funny). In any case, she deals with various people in person and over the phone as the killer somehow gains some sort of attachment to her and he shows this by killing one of her patients as according to her discussed-in-person problems as well as performing his killing rounds. In the meantime, the police are on to our bulky killer with various help, but even with their mounting evidence, they run into consistent dead ends until the killer finally kills a caller for Dr. Gale to hear live over the air and she insists on aiding in stopping the killer.


The Review
One of the past selling techniques alluring me to various horror movies is when a horror movie communicates a warning to the audience with its sole title: Don’t. I feel as though just using that word for a horror movie works out wonderfully. But of course, just like everything else in this silly world, one can find something good and bad from the lot and this just happens to be one of the worse ones, but for a different reason than one might imagine. You see, a horror movie is NOTHING without something horrific to offer; even if its mere exploitation, it can still be harrowing and it will keep you involved in a somewhat serious way. That being said, Don’t Answer the Phone offers something terrifying, but delivers poorly in keeping us attached. It seizes the chances it has in the departments of sleaze and the seedy life of a strangulating death rapist, but everything else is just too reprehensible: the all-around bland acting intertwined with the occasionally coherent acting that is inundated with trite and boring comic relief is perhaps the biggest deterring part of this movie, but more over, it’s ultimate lack of potential and simultaneous slanted use of dated clichés. We have a title that concerns us about answering the phone, but after a manly voiced mother calls her daughter, the warning of the phone answering seems almost entirely irrelevant, despite calling the doctor on her radio show! Apparently, this movie was based off a screen play called Night Time, so it’s obvious that the switching title was a big mistake, but I’m rushing in too deep. Let’s find out what works first:

As mentioned earlier, the sleaze of the film was rather well done in the sense that our killer was also a photographer (forgot to mention that earlier, but that’s what a movie like this does to you) who would photograph his victims defiled corpses and would sell them for a good sum of money (because they were strangled, I guess no one would suspect, but it still gives you the creeps). We watch the killer enter this seedy Holly Wood underworld of pimps and drug pushing nonchalantly like a scene of social acceptance, most of the fellows not knowing/caring whether this guy was the local serial killer or not. Also, killer is fairly well acted. Now I know, I consistently give kudos to actors playing convincing killer roles, but I feel that the actors deserve it; it’s no easy task playing the antagonist, especially when the character requires the actor to perform odd deeds and forms of murder and make them convincing. I don’t know how long the guy who played as the rapist in Deliverance had to put up with people walking by him in airports singing the banjo & guitar song under their breath, but the guy deserves credit for his role as it challenges your social life regardless and may impede or advance your acting career. With my analogous digression in place, Nicholas Worth as Kirk the killer was exceptionally good, seeing that the exposition and credibility of his character was really all up to him in an inferable manner. There were no expository flash backs regarding his trauma and there wasn’t enough time or lines for him to completely express his character’s feelings lucidly, just three out of eight spots of exposition that adhere closely to his problems that in some small way, one can relate. I wasn’t expecting a character study out of this mind you, but just enough depth of the character so he is not just some faceless villain that kills SOLELY because it feels good and makes us want to watch him die faster…the character is still icky and hateful, but not enough to emit so strong a feeling of vindictive utilitarianism for his actions that doesn’t question understanding, which brings me straight into what doesn’t work in the movie…man oh man, where to start?

First off, if you’re going to have a perverted killer strangling young women, make sure not ALL of the victims are stupid and/or mentally challenged with little exceptions; give em’ a chance to struggle and evade the killer so the audience gets a feeling of fear or terror (at least The Toolbox Murders gave three out of the four victims a fighting chance)! Second, if you’re going to have a police force dedicated to catching the killer, make sure they’re competent! Before murdering a second victim, Kirk followed her five times, enough for her to see his face, recognize his car from the previous three drive-bys and act upon the stalking. On top of that, Kirk left his hand and finger prints all over the side door knob of the victims house, before he battered the front of it down. They may have found a Viet Kong coin in the stocking used for strangulation hinting he must’ve be a Vietnam war veteran, they may have found pubic hairs and semen samples, but they never dusted for finger prints or made any other conclusions from the samples rather than another link up to a similar murder?! Another brilliant emphasis of this type of police work was character Lt. McCabe being wry, being highly one dimensional (just like COUNTLESS low budget Science Fiction films) and pulling off Joe Don Baker tactics, intertwined with gunning down your only living witness and shooting an unarmed man dead simply because he’s too strong to be contained (and they don’t get points for ripping off tidbits from the climaxes to Eegah or House on the Edge of the Park neither [betcha’ that guy isn’t gonna fall in the pool])! If a case is really THAT perplexing, call in the FBI, not a clairvoyant or a phony professor! Third, if you’re going to hurtle forth cannon fodder, make sure they don’t always act so impetuously dumbfounded that once their own house is being bombarded by a human tank, they just crawl out of bed and crouch down in a bright inconspicuous corner of their room or never think of escaping through the side door of their own home instead of running for the obviously blocked door!! Fourth, in lieu of the incompetent police force, make sure your other helpers such as psychiatrists aren’t so unbelievably fake (this includes the lead doctor!) that we believe more of the incompetent officer’s straight-forward, black and white rhetoric rather than the professionals as they are either too derivative or dead pan stoic to be believable! Fifth, if the movie wanted atmosphere, they should’ve made sure that the music didn’t belong more appropriately in a Nintendo fighting game!! Sixth, I know some movies desire padding, but intertwining it with a huge assault worth of sexual comic relief made me forget I was watching a horror movie…that’s not good.

The Conclusion
Continuity shots were terrible, the content was surprisingly lacking, the depth of our characters were more shallow than the killer’s, it was hard to find someone believable or smart (with the exception of the psychic, but even he was too clichéd), leaving an innumerous amount of loose plot threads dangling like nooses hanging from a glass-less green house, lack of using a phone as a sign of danger for the victims…the list just goes on. I know bad movies are easily commendable at times because some of them are so bad they’re good or have bad acting that surprisingly makes the movie more believable in a realistic form, but the worst part about all of this was that it was more boring than it was entertaining, harrowing, frightening or easy to take seriously unless you’re easily offended by a woman killer/partial racist, which is highly understandable, but there’s more serious cinema out there than this; this is just dumb. There were at least two of these bad scenes I found hilarious, the first being the obvious digressional sexual comedy where a supposed drug bust is going on and we run into several outrageously dressed bondage fellows in a panic and the second is where the doctor is talking to a drug addict, but the scene starts with a close up of the addict’s blonde hair and the both of them in a room with flowery wall paper, then we see the doctor talking to the addict in another shot in front of white walls and the addict’s hair is brown. I was not looking for quality in this movie, for cinematic quality is almost as hard to define as whether someone is normal or not, but I was looking for effort. I feel sorry giving it a one because I saw potential in it with our traumatized killer, and I’m sure director Robert Hammer did too, but any form of redeeming factor was lost in the fat of lingering insipidness. This movie made me wish the lighting was just as worse as it was in The Demon, this way it would’ve been harder to see the ennui that is Don’t Answer the Phone. Memorable Stinger: “McCabe and Hatcher! Those bozos! If it were up to me, I’d fire em’!”



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