Synopsis: Detective Hazel Micallef hasn’t had much to worry about in the sleepy town of Fort Dundas until a string of gruesome murders in the surrounding countryside brings her face to face with a serial killer driven by a higher calling.
Release Date: August 29, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller
In the most clear and obvious fashion, The Calling sets the scene for a mystery thriller centered around a string of serial murders. The small town motif is identified early on, having the main character of Hazel (Susan Sarandon from The Company You Keep) pick up her daily breakfast sandwich and coffee curbside from a fellow townie. Her indignation for her job as a police detective made clear when she rolls up the window on the same man as he tries to tell her of a disturbance on his property. Hazel also happens to be a pill-popping alcoholic who sleeps on the floor due to back problems–she refuses to have the recommended surgery. There is a clear want to give Hazel a strong backstory and to introduce her less-than-desirable qualities but the tropes she is given are quite often laughable. More so to those who know movies well as the lack of creativity is evident from the first scene of the film when Hazel is dealing with her morning pill ritual. It is made only more obvious when she steals pills from the first deceased victim.
The victims are the real treat in The Calling. Nothing much happens in Hazel’s sleepy town until she gets a call that one of the residents has not been heard from in a couple days by her son. She heads over to the woman’s home only to find her throat cut to the point that her head is nearly sawed off and a look of absolute terror frozen on her face. This is not something the town police are used to handling, clearly, as they use a station wagon to transport the body–and they don’t have a morgue. One murder is a simple thing, but when more of the same types of murders start occurring in the surrounding area a serial killer is obviously on the loose. Luckily for the viewer you don’t have to guess who that may be as the movie clearly tells you early on. A downside to the mystery? Surely. An opening to add a little religious fanaticism and strange beliefs over reincarnation? Definitely. There is even a priest involved, played by super-veteran-of-camp-and-more Donald Sutherland.
The Calling does have its strong points, mixed in with the expected and likely occurrences. The cause of death is not what you expect, necessarily, and when it is discovered how the people are being killed and why you have a moment of “hmmm…that is interesting. I need to Google that when I get home and see if its real.” Then they send a rookie cop (played by Take Me Home Tonight‘s Topher Grace) to investigate a possible victim and ta-da, back to banality.
The Calling moves back and forth between intriguing you, and then letting you down for the lack of creativity. The performances are strong by all involved, Sarandon leading the charge and doing it well alongside Gil Bellows, Sutherland, Grace, and Christopher Heyerdahl who plays the villain Simon. Then again, it is up to you to decide whether Simon is in fact a villain or merely misunderstood, possibly deranged, or just far too religious for his own good. Yes, The Calling is one of those story’s. The Calling is far from what one would call a bad movie, it just does not have a uniqueness all its own to warrant an above average review.
If there were a handbook on how to write a serial killer mystery thriller, screenwriter Scott Abramovitch would have surely read, and mesmerized it prior to writing the script for The Calling. He obviously must have seen The Silence of the Lambs and 7even multiple times as there are clear correlations in the material–but not to great effect or homage. The script plays out with every beat in perfect place, every twist occurring just as it should, and has done in numerous films before. This can be seen as a positive, in that the viewer finds a welcoming story to follow along with and much thought does not have to be put into the movie watching experience. The negative is of course that The Calling does not offer a challenge. You are well aware of what is going to happen, and revealing the villain of the film in the first act does not help matters. The Calling is as standardized as it can come with a Hollywood picture. It does not condescend the viewer, if in case you were unaware of what was going to happen next. Nor does it have you questioning motive or intention of the antagonist as it is clearly laid out. The Calling merely presents yet another mystery thriller for the history books that will go unnoticed.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jason Stone
- Screenwriter(s): Scott Abramovitch
- Cast: Susan Sarandon (Hazel Micallef)Gil Bellows (Detective Ray Green)Ellen Burstyn (Emily Micallef) Topher Grace (Ben Wingate)Donald Sutherland (Father Price)Christopher Heyerdahl (Simon)
- Editor(s): Aaron Marshall
- Cinematographer: David Robert Jones
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Grayson Matthews
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA