Time-traveling movies are always a tricky thing to pull off. They always run the risk of plot-holes and becoming a muddled mess. Most of these movies make things up as they go along, but we let the mistakes slide if the movie is good enough. The Back To The Future series is a prime example of how a movie can ignore it's own rules, have a bunch of plot flaws, and still be universally loved. Alternatively, you have a movie like Timecop which is equal parts confusing mess and lousy entertainment. The most important part of a time-travel movie, or any movie for that matter, is to be entertaining first, and accurate second. Throwing in time-travel to the horror genre is an interesting, if risky, venture.
The Caller is a 2011 supernatural horror movie starring Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight, Swingtown) as Mary Kee. Mary has just moved in to a new apartment in Puerto Rico after finalizing a divorce from her violent husband, Steven (Ed Quinn, Eureka, True Blood). Inside her new apartment is an old rotary phone which she decides to keep. One night, the phone rings with a woman on the other line asking to speak with someone named Bobby. Mary informs her that, despite having the right number, no one by that name lives in the apartment. Trying to get her life back together, Mary enrolls in classes at the local university where she meets a math teacher named John Guidi (Stephen Moyer, Priest, 88 Minutes). The mysterious calls continue with Mary eventually having a conversation with the woman. Her name is Rose (Lorna Raver, Drag Me To Hell, Armored) and they begin talking about their lives. Rose tells Mary that she is calling from the 1970's, which Mary quickly dismisses. Rose says that she drew a picture inside Mary's pantry and wants her to look at it. Mary sands down the paint on the wall to reveal a picture of a rose. During this time, Mary is harassed by her ex-husband despite a restraining order and her growing relationship with John. When Rose reveal that she is in an abusive relationship with Bobby, Mary tells her to stick up for herself. During the next call, Rose tells Mary that she killed Bobby and may have hidden him inside the walls. Mary refuses to take the calls for a short time, and is able to move forward in her relationship with John. Mary asks her neighbor George (Luis Guzman, Boogie Nights, Traffic) about Rose and he tells her that she committed suicide many years ago. Mary starts to take the phone calls again from a now irate Rose and time starts to shift as Rose changes things in her past. Soon, no one remembers George and eventually, Mary learns that John died as a child. One night, Mary receives a phone call from Rose, who has a special visitor: Mary as a little child. What will happen to Mary in the past and is there any way she can stop her from the present?
Another thrilling action scene brought to you by The Caller
Time-traveling movies can work if they're done with a mixture of subtlety, nuance, and cleverness. The Caller has none of these traits, leaving behind a boring and confusing mess. My biggest problem with the movie is that the simple solutions of “not answering the phone” or “move out of the apartment” are never presented as real options. This is the same issue I have with the plot of the television show “American Horror Story.” (Full disclosure: I could only sit through one episode of AHS and hated every second of it). There were way they could have forced Mary to pick up the phone early on, but she's presented as just being bored. I understand and appreciate the parallel between Rose and Mary in their respective relationship, but I never truly believed that Mary would confide in an obviously crazy person and feel a connection with her.
The movie spends far too much time with character development and not enough with action and horror. The time-changing aspect doesn't really kick in until the last ¼ of the movie when it really should have started much earlier. It was an interesting touch to have the young Mary involved, but then again, it didn't really make much sense. I mean, where were her parents during this time? And if George and John had been killed in the past, are they still dead? They were just trying to help this girl out and they get the short-end of the stick. Where's the justice in that? The acting is fine, throughout with Lorna Raver putting in the best performance just by using her voice. The movie isn't scary and there were only a few times where Rose's voice became creepy. Without the scares or action, we're left with a weak plot and mediocre directing. I did also find it out that, with the exception of Luis Guzman, the main characters in the movie are white, despite taking place in Puerto Rico.
The most strategically-placed bush ever
The Caller is a decent idea for a story that just isn't pulled off well on screen. Rarely can I enjoy a movie where the simplest solution is to just stop doing something. The movie tries to explain all the time-changing mumbo-jumbo, but they should have focused more on the supernatural evil ghost talking through the phone. There is very little action to speak of with only the last 15 minutes of the movie providing any sort of excitement or entertainment. Too much time is spent on relationships and not enough of actual horror and thrills. It is simply not scary and not even spooky. The acting is passable, but the direction is not particularly good. Throw in all the time-changing and you're in for a boring and confused movie. Do yourself a favor and don't answer The Caller.