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The Caller


A kooky, ooky, little-seen thriller that's not worth much

Rod Lott May 4th, 2011

* Ring ring! * "Hello?" "Hi, it's the 1987 film 'The Caller.' May I waste 97 minutes of your time?"

thecaller

"Uh, no, I'd rather you not, but tha—"

"Too bad! You've already pressed 'PLAY'!"

Ah, well, At least it's not a complete loss. In this kooky, ooky, little-seen thriller from the director of the infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger turkey "Hercules in New York,"  a beautiful woman is all alone at night in an isolated cabin. What could go wrong? For starters, Malcolm McDowell showing up unannounced at the front porch!

McDowell (typecast as a cinematic nut ever since "A Clockwork Orange") plays the caller, and Madolyn Smith ("Funny Farm") plays the girl. Those are their actual character names. Before he arrives, Smith spends some time talking to her daughter on the phone, unconvincingly: "You know us mothers, what cranky fusspots we are. Are you eating three meals a day?"

Once McDowell makes his entrance, the dialogue doesn't improve. To wit, this exchange:

Girl: "Do you ever sweat?"
Caller: "No."
Girl: "Too bad. Perspiration's good for you."

If you're asking why she would allow him to cross the cabin threshold, you're not alone. At least she's rather suspicion of his "my car is broken down" story: "You apologize too much," she says.

Too bad he doesn't apologize to viewers, because this two-character piece — literally, that's the whole of the cast —  is like watching an hour-and-a-half conversation. It could be a stage play, if only it had dialogue that crackled.

McDowell challenges her to a 10-point game of wits, for reasons unknown, and she accepts. From that point forward, "The Caller" unfolds like a chess game — and feels like it. There's nothing wrong with chess, so long as you're one of the players, but here, you're the third wheel in what amounts to "'Deathtrap' for Dummies." They both seem crazy, so you’re not held in suspense to find out who is.

If there's any reason to sit through this Charles Band production, it's to witness the major — and I do mean major — turn at the end. You'll never guess what it is — not because writer Michael Sloane and director Arthur Allan Seidelman are just that cunning, but because it doesn't follow any semblance of logic. —Rod Lott

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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