Movie: *** 1/2
Article first published as DVD Review: ‘The Calling’ (2014) on Blogcritics.
Many movies you’ve never heard of wind up taking up space on video
shelves every week. Most of these direct-to-video releases aren’t very
good. Once in a while, one manages to slip through the cracks and
surprise everyone. This week’s better-than-average thriller is The Calling. It even features a couple of Oscar winners: Susan Sarandon and Ellen Burstyn—not to mention a cameo from Donald Sutherland.
The most surprising aspect however comes in the form of director
Jason Stone. You’d never expect the man behind the original short film Jay & Seth vs. the Apocalypse—which was then expanded into This Is the End—to
deliver a brooding, slow-burning, faith-based police procedural. But
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is making sure you can catch it on DVD.
Hazel Micallef (Sarandon) likes her town quiet. It makes her liking for
pain pills and alcohol go down smoother. She lives with her mom
(Burstyn) and doesn’t mind being behind the times to the point of not
even owning a cell phone. (It’s still sitting on her desk in the box.)
One morning she’s sent to check on someone’s elderly mother to find the
mother in the living room, half-decapitated.
After another body is found a few days later, Hazel is convinced she
has a serial killer on her hands, but the higher powers won’t listen.
After a drifter blows into town and a newly transferred Toronto officer
shows up (Topher Grace), Hazel must pool together her instincts to stop
the killer before he strikes again, completing his 12 willing
Atmosphere and mood define The Calling, something highly
lacking from a glutton of run-of-the-mill thrillers these days. Most
simply want to focus their attention on the brutality of the kills and
try to one-up each other on the gore factor. Screenwriter Scott
Abramovitch adapts Inger Ash Wolfe’s novel with a new plot structure. He
focused more on Hazel’s own demons than the Dr. Kevorkian aspirations
of the killer—something they discuss in the DVD’s only spoiler-saturated
special feature: “Divine Intention: Making The Calling” (15:51). Do not watch this before the actual film.
The cast helps give the film a professional air, lending the appropriate independent spirit. The Calling makes no bones about its killer, so don’t expect a barrage of red herrings. The Calling
isn’t a great thriller, but a decent thriller is always a good thing
when picking through new Redbox releases. Definitely worth at least a
rental on an autumn afternoon.