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.
Detective 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 sacrifices.
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.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KE7PC6Q]