Phone alone – The Call review


By Jess Lomas
May 14, 2013

In most horror films, the call comes from inside the house. In Brad Anderson’s thriller The Call it comes from the inside of a car’s trunk.

It begins with Jordan Turner (Halle Berry), a 9-1-1 operator based in Los Angeles, answering teenager Leah Templeton’s (Evie Thompson) call to report an intruder. What looks to be a standard robbery soon escalates into an abduction, despite Jordan telling the man he doesn’t have to hurt the young girl. “It’s already done,” is his reply, and when Leah’s body is discovered days later, it almost destroys Jordan and causes her to retire from the 9-1-1 “hive” to train call centre operators.

Six months later, Jordan is leading a group of trainees when Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) calls to report she has been abducted from a mall car park by a man (Michael Eklund). Jordan steps in to relieve the overwhelmed operator, instantly realising the similarities to the case that sent her off the rails. She’s determined not to make the same mistakes twice and lose another girl, but she’s already broken one of her golden rules: never make promises.


This high-concept abduction thriller is surprisingly enjoyable despite its formulaic structure. There’s the set up of the disposable mobile conveniently left by Casey’s friend, ensuring her calls cannot be traced as easily by the police; and the incidents involving would-be good Samaritans all take place in isolated areas of LA, ensuring no witnesses. When it does attempt to break formula, in the misguided third act, it spirals uncontrollably into asinine territory from which it cannot redeem itself.

Much like Rodrigo Cortes’ BuriedThe Call expertly navigates a claustrophobic setting, utilising its boundaries to its advantage. Although not set entirely in the abductor’s car, the moments where the picture succeeds in delivering suspense and excitement occur in the trunk, and are driven exclusively by Abigail Breslin’s emotional performance. Berry similarly does the best she can with Richard D’Ovidio’s (Exit Wounds) screenplay, one that is full of predictable and cheesy dialogue, including an exchange about the movie Bridesmaids; a transparent attempt to modernise something that could otherwise have been made in the early 1990s.

Despite Anderson’s brutal and vulgar shock ending (which does anything but shock), the first two thirds of The Call are unexpectedly tight and enjoyable, and deliver a gripping, high intensity ride where its many flaws can be overlooked.


The Call arrives in Australian cinemas May 16, 2013.

One Response to “Phone alone – The Call review”

  1. I like your review. I also like your comparison to Burried. Please check out my review if you can, I would appreciate it!

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