I used to have one steadfast rule: if I was watching a movie on home video and I hadn't heard of it, it wasn't worth seeing. That rule stems from a broader one: if a movie goes straight to DVD, it's not worth watching. If the studio doesn't have confidence that a movie can make it big theatrically, especially in typically low-brow genres like horror, then the movie is probably terrible. Video On-demand is changing those views.
The rule still generally holds true. Most movies that bypass theatrical releases and go straight to home video aren't worth watching. But there are enough exceptions these days that one can't be immediately dismissive of movies that aren't released through the traditional process.
Enter The Caller.
I had the opportunity to review it for free and yet still passed it up because it looked like a knock-off version of When a Stranger Calls starring that chick who was stupid enough to negotiate herself out of a starring role in the Twilight franchise. It wasn't until I was at a friend's house and we opted to buy it on-demand (which meant he had to pay for it, not me) that I finally agreed to give it a whirl.
The Caller isn't a great movie, but it is surprisingly engaging, even unique. What looks like a standard thriller is actually much more; without giving too much away, it deals with time travel, or at least time paradoxes. It's like a horror movie version of Frequency.
Like so many horror movies, it isn't without some glaring flaws and plot holes. But the surprising addition of time travel plays to the movie's favor. Rachelle Lefevre carries the film well, delivering a more-than-adequate performance as a troubled divorcee who is being phone-stalked by a creepy old woman (Lorna Raver) and harassed by her violent ex-husband (Ed Quinn). The very fact that the movie goes the time travel route (sort of) makes it stand out among the legions of horror rip-offs that pummel audiences every year. It's a little different, a bit unpredictable, and that makes it worth it.
That doesn't mean it's smart. The Caller's approach to time travel is about as rudimentary as time travel discussions get. Start thinking about it and the plot holes will emerge like large blots on a person's face. While time travel movies always require some degree of suspended belief, The Caller requires a lot. It's first and foremost a horror movie, a low budget one at that. It's small, it's dumb, it's not remarkable. The climax suffers as a result.
But the movie is still fun. The Caller keeps you interested, keeps you guessing what's going to happen next, and that alone sets it apart from the droves of B-grade horror flicks these days. It isn't a movie I'll buy or even watch again, but for horror fans, it's a breath of fresh air.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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