"Those Who Call"
review by Diablo Joe
"Those Who Call"
"Those Who Call" begins with a young woman lost in the woods of Whispering Pines: population 53, after her car breaks down. After nightfall, she finds herself in the clutches of a group of cultists destined for sacrifice. It's a moody, effective scene, steeped in a quiet punctuated by a final, horrible scream. So opens Anubys Lopez's debut Satanic horror thriller.
From there, the film follows Sandra and Ana as the pair travel through the same roadway into that quiet forest-dense township. These two sisters, estranged from one another, have reunited after their father's death. As they drive deeper into the woods, mysterious incidents and encounters plague the pair, drawing them closer to darkness and their father's secrets.
Had "Those Who Call" continued on the path of its effective opening scene, Lopez's film could have been something genuinely spooky and unsettling. Sadly for the audience, once the two sisters enter the picture, the movie takes a turn into less impressive territory. For the next 70 minutes or so of the film's 80-minute run time, Sandra and Ana are left to carry the lion’s share of the narrative. And it’s a task neither the characters nor the actors portraying them are up for.
We’re forced to watch the pair bicker and whine endlessly while, otherwise, very little happens. The film delves back and forth in time as we delve into the rift that left Sandra broken and bitter over being left alone by both her father and sister. Ana, who has grown into a successful young woman, has little time for her sibling’s mercurial temperament and insistence on holding on to their father’s home and possessions. These scenes are intended to be character development. But everything we understand about these two, besides histrionics and spite, is told to us rather than shown in the slightest. We’d never get the slightest gist of their backgrounds if the script hadn’t laid it out for us so baldly.
We could overlook those issues to some degree if they were interspersed with the horror of the variety we experienced in the movie’s opening. Instead, Lopez spends much of the film in the daytime, with the pair encountering Blair-Witch-style stick totems (with what look like goofy smiley-face tennis balls). There’s no sense of danger in place and, indeed, no mood or menace for most of the picture’s running time. In fact, the film feels excessively padded out with protracted, repetitious drone shots and lingering takes of the city limits signage and other drudgery.
It's only in the last few minutes that the film seems to want to get back on track. The movie delves into genuinely supernatural territory and offers a story twist that could be clever and surprising if the audience hadn’t lost interest long before. Even here, however, the horror is marred by drawn-out exposition and poor performances.
Had “Those Who Call” been a 15-minute short, it would have been bearable if mediocre. As a feature, it is tedious and trying, with nigh-on unbearable main characters.
This devil of a reviewer gives “Those Who Call” 1 out of 5 imps.