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The Caller Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome

The Caller Large

Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman
Written by Michael Sloane
1987, 97 minutes, Rated R
Released on September 29th, 2020

Starring:
Malcolm McDowell as The Caller
Madolyn Smith as The Girl

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Review:

A woman living alone in a remote cabin in the woods can’t shake the feeling that she is being watched. First at the market, then the gas station, and on the road close to home she comes across an abandoned car. She is expecting her boyfriend for dinner later that evening and while showering, once again feels someone is near. She calls her daughter to check in and settle her nerves. A knock at the door suggests her guest is early, but when she opens it she finds a middle-aged man who says he is having car trouble and needs to use her phone. She reluctantly invites him in and this sets off a long night of intense mind games and verbal challenges.

Uncertain if the man means her harm, the woman is careful to remain vigilant in his company. He is always one step ahead of her in this bizarre game. When she tries to leave she discovers her truck has a flat tire and her keys are missing. She checks her gun for protection only to discover he has taken the bullets. She threatens him with a knife and is easily overpowered. And yet, he is never the aggressor and when she asks him to wait outside for the wrecker service he agrees without challenge. A storm is coming and she inevitably invites him back inside and the game continues. Their relationship changes and grows more intimate but the unspoken threat remains. Their situation stretches into the next day and the mystery deepens as the danger increases. Who is this man and how does he know so much about her? What does he want and what is he hiding?

The Caller is a well-crafted, suspenseful tale written by Michael Sloane (Assassin) and directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman (Hercules in New York). Set primarily in one location with a minimal cast of two, the high-concept picture is dialogue-driven and carries echoes of a David Mamet stage play. The verbal sparring between the unnamed man and woman begins innocently enough with a request for help. Playing on the woman’s good nature, the man insinuates himself into her life and engages her in a high-stakes conversation. He clearly has an agenda as his questions are probing and increasingly personal.

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Malcolm McDowell (Cat People) and Madolyn Smith (Urban Cowboy) are immediately engaging as they deliver powerhouse performances. McDowell is largely restrained with only a flash of temper to betray his calm demeanor. He is unfaltering in his measured manipulation of the conversation, driving the narrative forward at every turn like a relentless shark on the hunt for blood. Smith holds her own as she fills the character with unease and growing fear. She is cautious and resourceful in facing her opponent, knowing nobody is coming to rescue her. McDowell and Smith play well off each other and handle the verbal gymnastics with ease.

The Caller is a deliberately paced thriller skillfully edited by Bert Glatstein (Crawlspace), who grabs viewers’ attention through a number of increasingly taut sequences that will keep you fully invested until the surprising finale. The film has its flaws to be certain, primarily in the script department, but the overall effect is successful. While it would probably work better as a play, Seidelman’s confident direction paired with some striking cinematography courtesy of Daniele Nannuzzi (Santa Sangre) and an engaging score by Richard Band (From Beyond) make for a satisfying viewing experience.

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Video and Audio:

The original interpositive has received a 2K scan and restoration with solid results. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, picture quality is strong with well-saturated colors and deep black levels. There is plenty of small object detail and flesh tones appear natural throughout.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 preserves the original audio mix and delivers clean, clear dialogue levels that are always understandable. Music cues and sound effects are well-balanced and the track is free from any pops, hiss or other distortion. Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Director Arthur Allan Seidelman sits for the newly recorded interview Boiling Over (15 minutes) in which he shares his memories of working with producers Charles Band (Ghoulies) and Frank Yablans (The Fury). He talks about his approach to maintaining tension between two characters and praises his actors’ performances. He also commends the work of his cinematographer.

In an audio interview (10 minutes), screenwriter Michael Sloane discusses his writing process and his thoughts on the casting and performances. He talks about his time on set and his reaction to the finished film.

A photo gallery (1 minute) of promotional stills is included.

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Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Twoandahalfstars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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