‘The Call’ works as a horror film because director Timothy Woodward Jr.’s (‘Studio City’) vision is brought to life by a group of extremely talented actors. Horror legends Lin Shaye and Tobin Bell play Edith and Edward Cranston, an elderly couple who have been turned into social pariahs by their community because of an incident that happened a few years back. When the local teenagers vandalize their home for what seems like the umpteenth time, Edith commits suicide, but not before setting up a game that she will play with them from beyond the grave. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Call Plot Synopsis
After his parents’ divorce, Chris (Chester Rushing) has recently relocated to the sleepy midwestern town of Willow Falls with his mother. On his first day at school, he becomes acquainted with Tonya (Erin Sanders), who asks him to join her for a visit to the carnival ground later in the evening. When he shows up there, she introduces him to Zack (Mike C. Manning) and his brother Brett (Sloane Morgan Siegel). Over cheap drinks and marijuana, Chris learns about Tonya’s sister Laura and how she went missing from the Cranston daycare center.
The three friends and likely the entire town believe that Edith had something to do with the disappearance. They explain to Chris that they have a tradition of vandalizing her property to let her know that they have not forgotten what she did. Although Zack, Brett, and Tonya go through with the plan and throw bricks at the windows of the Cranston home, Chris doesn’t. They are later confronted by Edith, who tells them that the intimidation tactics will not work on her. She will never leave the town because as much as they hate her, she hates them more.
Later, in the night, during a conversation with Edward, Edith is clearly distraught. Years of being bullied by those three have taken their toll. She ends up committing suicide. A few days later, all four of them receive a phone call from Edward, inviting them to his home. Once there, he informs them that Edith has left all her wealth to four of them. All they have to do is to go upstairs, call a specific number from the phone there, and stay on the phone for a minute. If they are able to do this, he will give them $100,000 each.
If any of them puts down the phone before their one minute is completed, Edward warns, his share of the money will be distributed among the other three. When Chris asks whom they will be calling, Edward reveals that he has put a phone inside Edith’s casket on her request, and they will be calling that number. After much discussion, they agree, and Zack is the first one to go up. He is followed by Brett, and he, in turn, is followed by Chris, with Tonya being the last one in the line.
The Call Ending
‘The Call’ is set in 1987, at the tail end of the golden age of teen horror films. From puffed-up hair to vintage cars, to predominantly teen cast, Woodward Jr. ensured that his homage to the films he grew up with would look as authentic as possible. The film has several well-timed jump-scare scenes that are executed remarkably well. But the real fear factor in ‘The Call’ is atmospheric, and it is maintained throughout the film.
The rumors of Edith being a witch seems to be true. She clearly has the ability to talk to people from beyond the grave. Edward is understandably affected by his wife’s demise and decides to put things in motion to get justice for her. When they show up at his house, all four teenagers are confused. When he speaks about the money, only Zack and Brett show interest in playing Edith’s game. Having grown up in a troubled and impoverished home, they know that money can do wonders for them. However, to convince Tonya, he has to threaten her with Edith’s suicide note, which implicated all four of them.
The moment they pick up the phone and hear Edith’s voice, they are trapped. As Edith later explains to Tonya, hell is not all fire and brimstone, like the Bible says. Instead, it is reliving one’s worst nightmare for eternity. For Zack and Brett, the hell is their childhood with their abusive father. For Chris, it is the day on which his pregnant girlfriend Sarah (Ciara Hanna) died in a car crash. And for Tonya, it is the day of her sister’s death. The film ends with all four of them trapped in their personal hell.
Who Killed Laura?
Over the years, Tonya has convinced not only her friends but also herself that Edith caused her sister’s death. In reality, Tonya was the one who murdered her sister in a fit of jealousy. Laura had become their father’s favorite. The last straw was when Edith gave the younger girl a heart-shaped pendant. Seeing the love and adoration her sister receives filled her with envy and rage.
She took Laura to a remote bridge and killed her there. Tonya later started blaming Edith for it because she needed a possible perpetrator so people will not suspect her. Her actions throughout the years gradually pushed Edith toward insanity and suicide. Tonya’s personal hell has both her sister and Edith to torment her to perpetuity.
Why Did Chris Return?
Although Chris successfully escapes Edith’s trap with Sarah’s help, he stays back to help Tonya, which proves to be his undoing. Tonya almost kills him after seeing him in a video in which he is seen conspiring with Edith. He later shoots and kills Edward when he threatens them with his gun. As he tries to lead Tonya outside, they get separated, with her trapped inside the room with the phone. When the door opens again, she is gone. He realizes that there is no escape for anyone from this house, not even for him. So, he willingly steps back into his own personal hell.
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