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When a Killer Calls

Directed by Steve Bevilacqua

Written by Peter Mervis

Starring Rebekah Kochan, Robert Buckley, Mark Irvingsen, Sarah Hall

Produced by David Michael Latt, David Rimawi, Sherri Strain

Rated R

90 minutes

*

Recent history time, folks. I really, truly doubt that the release of “When A Killer Calls,” which appeared on video store shelves about two weeks or so ahead of the video release of “When A Stranger Calls” was some kind of incredible coincidence.

Especially after the less-than-incredible coincidence of “Hillside Cannibals” coming out at almost the same time as the remake of “The Hills Have Eyes” in theatres.

Oh, Asylum. Oh, oh, ohhhhh Asylum. What happened? What happened to the studio I was applauding this time last year for gutsy moves and original programming? What happened to the studio that was willing to take chances on movies like “Haunted House,” “Corpses Are Forever,, “Hide and Creep,” and plenty of others?

When did you become wholesale dedicated to second-rate filmmaking and pumping out more knockoffs than a Malaysian sweatshop?

“When A Killer Calls” is just one more bad example, Asylum.

So what we’ve got here is the, let’s face the horrible truth, incredibly derivative story of a girl babysitting alone in a house with just one child, and being plagued throughout the night by a mysterious caller. When her boyfriend arrives, with his friend and her girlfriend, things feel a bit safer, until the blood starts flowing.

As we pretty much knew it would.

Though I’m wildly disappointed in this movie as a whole, I have to admit that they did a fairly nice job with tension building in the first half of the movie. There’s a clever little sequence at the twenty five minute thirty nine second mark where our heroine is watching what looks like “Shapeshifter” (but there’s a chance it could be “Dead Men Walking”; it’s tough to tell from the little bit we see) and says with a disgusted look “This is terrible.” Which it was, kind of, but really not that bad. There’s also an excellent makeup effect at thirty seven minutes twenty three seconds. I had a tough time spotting the wires on that one, so it’s really well done. Leigh Scott and director Mervis both show up as cops near the end, and though they’re little more than murder fodder, it’s still kind of a thrill to see these two in action. But it’s not wholly without flaw here as for some reason, someone’s inserted a whole lot of jump cuts, weird half-zoom shots, and some bizarre jittery camera work in the narrative.

Which is about all the good I can say about the movie. There are plot holes here like no tomorrow. First off, at the six minute mark, it’s generally a BAD idea to actively depict the murder of children. It’s very seldom done, and not the kind of thing you WANT to do unless you’re out to really vilify your villain. And this movie just doesn’t have the legs or long-term potential to make its villain a real asshole. Forty six minutes and fifty four seconds in, I’m starting to be convinced the heroine’s got some kind of brain damage as the police tell her how to dial a set of keys to trace the calls. She knows how to do it, even DOES it to allow the police to trace, but on the phone’s next ring, she DOESN’T ANSWER THE PHONE.

My jaw is on the floor at this point. Honey…seriously…you have to answer the phone so the police can trace the call. Stop getting felt up by your boyfriend for a minute and go pick up!

I spent much of the rest of the movie either being confused (How DID the killer get into the house, anyway?) or being disgusted (Fifty one minutes, twenty seven seconds…we have ripoff!) or being downright revolted (For some reason, Steve Bevilacqua decided to insert a ten, twenty minute torture scene into the script.) and even managing to achieve amazement (Somehow, in the seven minutes between the killer taking out the cops and the heroine escaping the house, it went from pitch black to sunny morning.)

And then, the movie ends. Really, it’s that abrupt. The heroine just kind of wanders away. Leaving about, oh, half a dozen corpses behind her.

The special features include outtakes, a making-of featurette, and trailers for “Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers,” “King of the Lost World,” “Dead Men Walking,” “Shapeshifter,” and “When A Killer Calls.”

All in all, I don’t think I can sufficiently express my disgust and dismay at this poorly constructed knockoff without resorting to rude noises.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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