The Caller Movie Review

Written by Kat Albrecht

Released by Uncork'd Entertainment

the caller poster large

Written and directed by Richard Anthony Dunford
2022, 92 minutes, Not Rated
Released on December 5th, 2023

Starring:
Sarah Alexandra Marks as Izzy Robertson
Eric Roberts as Caleb Baxter
Colin Baker as DS Rawlins
Dani Thompson as Saffron Hunt

the caller 01 the caller 02

Review:

The Caller is an excellent short film, which for some reason is extremely long. And the longer it goes on, the more it unravels.

For the record, there are about 40 horror movies titled The Caller, but the one I mean is the 2022 effort from writer/director Richard Anthony Dunford. Sarah Alexandra Marks stars as Izzy Robertson, a work-from-home customer service agent who offers to house-sit for her uncle Wes in the middle of nowhere. In The Caller, we find out what happens when she gets a deranged killer on the phone.

The setup for the film is strong and culturally resonate in an era where more and more people have become remote workers. The interplay between an online worker and an in-person killer presents a potentially interesting dynamic for the movie to explore. I expected the film to really interrogate the dissolution of the sense of safety Izzy has being safely ‘online’ as the focal point of the horror. However, it does not.

Instead, it is supplanted into the plot fairly early and easily that the crazed caller on the other end of the line knows exactly where Izzy is. Without this tension as an ongoing plot point, we are left with Izzy herself as a more traditional horror heroine, a la When a Stranger Calls. This would be all right, if there was more substance in the plot.

the caller 03 the caller 04

The pacing of the film’s central action is weird. From the opening frame narrative to the plot peak, everything happens really slowly. Not so much in a “the tension is building” way, but more a “Wow, we’re still doing this part?” way.

Alternatively, The Caller succeeds the most in the small moments not directly related to the horror plot. Notably, the sequences where we watch Izzy live out a shift as a customer service agent are among the best in the film. The montage effects are very effective at portraying the passage of time and making the audience extra-aware of Izzy’s mannerisms and habits. If instead of a feature-length film, The Caller is a short, these sequences could stand as the bulk of the footage rather than as bright spots amid a duller theatrical length.

the caller 05 the caller 06

Izzy’s character is paranoid and cautious through much of the story, finding whatever weapons she can and reacting strongly to strange sounds and unexpected visitors. But in the final sequences of the film, it’s like the director simply forgot what type of character they had created. Izzy’s character is sincere from the beginning, not loaded with reflexive satire or commentary, so seeing a theoretically terrified woman waiting for the police decide to do a spin class and take a shower does not make any sense. Worse, rather than amplify the tension through some sort of horror homage, it undermines any authenticity or uniqueness in Izzy’s character. She’s morphed from a potentially interesting person to a generic horror character.

Similarly, there are excuses made for why Izzy is alone at the house and can’t call a friend that are completely immaterial and not additive. Perhaps this is indicative of footage left on the cutting room floor, but what remained is very: WERE YOU WONDERING WHY SHE HAS NO FRIENDS? And no, I wasn’t. This preoccupation with traditional explanations is another example of not fully embracing the idea of an online worker being super connected (to the internet), but not connected at all.

The Caller has a good premise and a good pivot point to consider the horror of solitude when the façade of security is ripped away, but it doesn’t. Aside from brief flashes in certain sequences, The Caller burns through its premise and relies on disappointingly stale horror elements that aren’t undertaken with a sense of fun or quickness. Overall, the film is worth a watch, but for the imagination of what it could be rather than what it is.

the caller 07 the caller 08

Grades:

Movie: 2.5 Star Rating Cover
Cover

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Kat Albrecht
Staff Reviewer
Kat Albrecht is a legally trained sociologist and computational social scientist studying how complex data can inform policy, with particular emphasis on the nexus of fear, criminal data, and the law. In other words, she’s a college professor who studies horror films sometimes. Her research specialties are practical special effects, creature features, and arguing about the meaning of genre. Kat will gleefully review any film that takes place in the ocean or in outer space and exclusively paints portraits of herself.
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