B Movie Glory: The Caller

Want something *really* weird? The Caller is an old Empire Pictures flick starring Madolyn Smith as a young woman alone in some forest cabin and Malcolm McDowell as a sinister stranger who knocks at her door asking to use the phone. This film is so rare you couldn’t even find it on VHS or DVD for decades until boutique, niche distribution label Vinegar Syndrome recently did a Blu Ray. The transfer looks terrific, McDowell and Smith handle the strange, talky, stage-play esque roles given to them by the script as best they can but the film overall is a monotonous, repetitive drag.. until the final five minutes when it goes so thoroughly and dementedly off the rails you just have to sit up straight on the couch after being lulled into a coma by the first eighty minutes and go “what even in the fuck?” The film is structured around a Hitchcockian premise where these two are strangers, alone together in the wilderness and both them and us aren’t sure who might be the potentially dangerous one, but their dialogue and interactions are so inane, random and bizarre we get a sense of neither backstory, character traits or motives for either. It’s simply a brain melting extended vignette of two people talking in circles about nothing until the certifiably bonkers ending that although is flashy, shocking and out of left field, does little to explain the hefty, dense several acres of tin drum dialogue that preceded it. This is an Indiana Jones artifact of sorts for me as a DVD collector, I’m a huge Malcolm McDowell fan and this has always been somewhat out of my reach so I’m glad I finally nabbed it but I wouldn’t really recommend this to casual viewers, it’s too unwieldy and inconsistent. Empire Pictures was momentarily famous for grainy, low-fi retro science fiction horror like the Trancers franchise, and this one only fits that mold in the final few minutes when it goes ape shit, while the rest is chamber piece drivel that desperately needed story and structure that the script just couldn’t provide it with.

-Nate Hill

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