Netflix horror worth your time #2: ‘The Caller’

“Pontypool,” as you’ve surely already found out for yourself, is not only available on Netflix, but probably one of the horror movies most worth your time this Halloween.

“Pontypool,” is probably the best, but don’t count out “The Caller.”

The thing we take for granted most about the past is that it’s written in ink. By its very definition, there’s nothing undecided about it. It doesn’t have any moving pieces; they’re very much permanently cemented down. To take the metaphor further, the past is like the earth underneath our feet. We take for granted it will stay firm and constant below us.

In “The Caller,” though, our protagonist, Mary, is going through an earthquake. The past, specifically one deranged woman in it, is wiping out the people in her life; erasing them and any trace of them.

 

And Mary hasn’t had it easy. She’s just divorced her abusive husband, gotten a restraining order, and is finally beginning to relax as she moves into her own apartment.

That is of course, until the phone rings. It is, “The Caller.” Her name is Rose and she is calling from 1979.

(As a side note, the title of the movie, “The Caller” is too passive. The movie’s creators probably thought it would come off as understated, but it’s so understated that even having watched it and become a fan, I’ve still flipped past it. The concept is too complex for a traditional title, say, ‘Dialing Up Murder’ or ‘Broken Connection.’ Maybe it should have been something like ‘Those Who Don’t Learn …’ playing on the old adage about how dangerous unheeded history can be, or maybe ‘Premeditated,’ or ‘Killing Time.’ But that’s still pretty bad.)

Considering the concept of “The Caller,” its closest kin is “Back to the Future.” In “Back to the Future,” though, Marty McFly tries to prevent himself from gently fading away from a photograph; Mary is trying to prevent Rose from completely erasing the lives of the people around her. Not that it’s that fully altruistic. Rose has designs on maiming and murdering Mary too.

It turns out that Rose is unhappy. Her husband is cheating on her in 1979 and she wants to kill herself. The first time history plays itself out, Rose hangs herself. This time through, she somehow dials into the future and makes a friend, Mary. (Of course this is where you’ll need to employ your suspension of disbelief. The film doesn’t try to explain this unique phenomenon, i.e. calling into the future, so it’s easy to just let it go. But if we had phone numbers to the future, I think the Browns would have held off on Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden and American mortgage lending practices would have been a bit more restrictive before 2008.)

The conversations are friendly at first. Mary suggests Rose stand up for herself. How Rose does this, though, is by killing her husband. It’s not what Mary had in mind. She’s uncomfortable and she tells Rose to stop calling. Unbalanced Rose though wants to keep their new friendship going and threatens Mary if she doesn’t keep answering.

In another stroke of coincidence, Mary lives in the same apartment Rose had, and to prove that Rose is in the past and that what she does can affect the future, she says she’ll make a mark in the pantry. Mary goes and looks and finds a rose painted there.

A painted rose isn’t too threatening though, or convincing, but soon Rose makes things very real.

 

Mary tries to take hold of the situation by telling Rose that she went to visit her in a nursing home. But, Rose asks her on a subsequent day if Mary visited again, and if she did if Mary noticed anything different.

Mary gets caught in a lie and Rose proves it. Rose tells Mary to dig in the yard. What Mary finds is a jar with a cloth inside. When she unwraps the cloth, she finds a finger.
Rose’s finger.

It feels like teleportation in a way. Rose sends her severed finger through time to Mary.

This doesn’t help their relationship of course, and as things complicate and Rose aims to show off her power, Rose kills the apartment building’s gardener and soon after she kills Mary’s boyfriend while he’s just a boy.

But the true weight of the whole thing comes when Rose calls and with her she has a little girl. It’s Mary.

And faintly in the background, you can hear boiling oil. Rose says she’s making fried chicken for young Mary. But Rose is getting angry and young Mary is close to the oil. Current Mary is yelling into the phone for the girl to run, but then we hear the pot overturn, the sizzle and burn, and then the crying.

Mary drops the phone and screams. She pulls back the shoulder of her sweater and watches as the oil-burns etch deep scars into her.

In horror movies the killer always has an advantage. They’re usually significantly stronger and aparently impervious. For Rose, her advantage is that she attacks from a place of safety, from the buffer that all those decades provide.

Mary will try to outsmart Rose. She’ll do her research. She’ll try to draw her to a bowling alley that catches fire. But Rose misses the bus.

It doesn’t end until they meet face to face. Rose has been waiting. And she comes for Mary.

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One Response

  1. “Netflix horror worth your time #2: The Caller | We are an Old Town” Hunter Douglas Blinds definitely causes myself contemplate a small bit extra.

    I personally adored each and every single section of it. Thanks for the post ,Kandy

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