With Twilight’s Rachelle Lefevre and True Blood’s Stephen Moyer as its leads, The Caller has a cast out of vampire crossover fan fiction, but it’s a more straightforward kind of horror. Actually, two kinds. The film, directed by Matthew Parkhill of Dot The I from a screenplay by Sergio Casci, marries a realistic threat to its main character, a fragile, freshly divorced woman, with a preposterous supernatural one. For a while, the two ominous elements play off each other promisingly, and then it all becomes ridiculous, despite an appearance from the excellent Lorna Raver, the malevolent gypsy woman from Drag Me To Hell.
The Caller is best at its beginning, when Lefevre’s character moves into a slightly shabby apartment complex after what, it becomes evident, was an unpleasant end to her marriage. Though she has a restraining order, her ex (Ed Quinn) has no qualms about showing up at her doorstep, and she seems too damaged by him to put up much of a fight, at one point wondering if leaving the obvious abuser was a mistake. Everything seems to cast an ominous shadow in Lefevre’s life—even a trip to the grocery store is filled with tension. When the phone starts ringing, and what seems to be a wrong number turns out to be a lonely former resident of the apartment (Raver) stuck in her own unhappy relationship, it seems at first that the calls could almost be the product of our heroine’s bruised subconscious.
They’re not, and The Caller heads down a path to Frequency-style silliness not long after Lefevre figures out that the strange woman is somehow contacting her from the past. The premise leaves room for a few clever touches, such as when, after advising her phone friend to get rid of her problematic significant other, Lefevre wakes to find her pantry ominously bricked up when it wasn’t before. But even after she pairs up with Moyer’s winningly dorky college professor, a man eager to help (and to illustrate plot complexities on a diner napkin), Lefevre makes the usual series of ill-advised horror-movie decisions that leave viewers wanting to shout at the screen. They’re all the more glaring given the outdated technology being used to plague her—not only is The Caller’s caller using a landline, she’s coming through on a rotary phone. Why not just let it ring? It wouldn’t even go through to voicemail.