This creepy psychological thriller is a spooky showcase for actress Rachelle Lefevre, best known as the vixenish vampire Victoria in the first two Twilight movies. Featured in virtually every scene, Lefevre capably traverses the terror terrain from intimidated despair to disturbed anger to shrieking madness…with a sexy music-montage love scene thrown in for good measure.
The male leads are a pair of True Blood vampire vets — series regular Stephen Moyer and season two guest star Ed Quinn — but there’s not a fang in sight here. The monster in this movie is a crazy lady on the phone, but she’s plenty scary enough.
Lefevre is Mary, the beautiful but mentally beaten down new occupant of a dismal apartment in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her ancient art deco building has seen better decades, and her place still has a massive black 1940s-looking dial telephone. A stranger identifying herself as Rose (Lorna Raver) keeps calling on it, asking to talk to an unfaithful boyfriend named Bobby.
Things get eerie when Rose claims it is 1979 on her end of the line, back when Bobby lived in Mary’s apartment. Rose says she will prove she’s telling the truth by drawing something on a wall. Sure enough, Mary scrapes off wallpaper and finds Mary’s drawing.
Still a bit dubious, Mary nevertheless bonds with Rose over a shared resentment of the problematic men in their lives. In Mary’s case, her bullying husband Steven (an excellently evil Quinn) has a bad habit of ignoring a restraining order, dropping by at one point to present Mary with a wedding photo adorned with the warning “Till Death Do Us Part.”
When Mary implies on the phone to Rose that she would be better off with Steven dead, Rose takes that as good advice for her own situation with Bobby. The next day, Mary discovers a new/old brick wall in her suddenly suspiciously smaller pantry. Oh-oh.
There are two kinds of time-twisting stories. One type says everything that will happen has happened, so all attempts to change a timeline already have been taken into account. The other approach, which The Caller uses, is that new versions of reality arise with every change, creating new and different forks in the time stream.
Sergio Casci’s screenplay has a few logic problems and inconsistencies. When Rose begins causing malicious mischief in the past affecting Mary and people she knows, Mary is the only person who realizes anything has been altered. Like George Bailey in an evil take on It’s A Wonderful Life, Mary is horrified to discover the extent of those changes. In Mary’s case, people she talked to mere days ago are now regarded by the rest of the world as long dead, killed by Rose in the past.
As to why Mary is the only person able to remember the way things were, her nice-guy new boyfriend John (Moyer) suggests her memory is unaffected because she’s the one who set things in motion. That’s a little weak, but okay. Less logical is the idea that Mary still would end up in exactly the same ratty apartment with the same vintage telephone, even after changes are made to her own past that should have had “butterfly effect” repercussions.
Also, it’s very hard to believe Mary wouldn’t call the cops when she suspects there’s a dead body hidden behind that newly materialized wall of her pantry. And it’s impossible to believe she wouldn’t call them when she thinks more than one corpse may be there.
The Caller gets points for taking itself completely seriously, to the point of being downright dreary at times — in a good way. Director Matthew Parkhill keeps things moody and minimalist, giving the movie a bleak David Lynch vibe right down to its evocative ambient-dread score (by the band UNKLE with Aidan Lavelle).
The ending is too seen-it-before for a movie with such a clever set-up, and geeks will debate whether the time tricks make sense. But The Caller manages to push enough of the right buttons to connect.