The Caller (2011)

AUGUST 23, 2011

GENRE: THRILLER
SOURCE: DVD (SCREENER)

If you’re the type of person who hears the fantastical plot of a movie (say, “Oil drillers go into space to blow up an asteroid”) and says “That sounds stupid, to hell with this movie”, then avoid The Caller like the plague. Not only does it revolve around a woman from 1979 “stalking” a woman in 2011 via the telephone, but (spoiler?) they don’t explain WHY this is happening. So not only will you get enraged at the plot, you won’t get the satisfaction of complaining about how their explanation was equally stupid.

For the rest of us less ignorant folks, the movie’s actually pretty good. It might have been a better long-form episode of an anthology series (like Masters of Horror), as it gets a bit drawn out, but as it was originally a short film I guess that is to be expected. And they could have filled that time with nonsensical exposition, explaining how this thing worked, and maybe even worked in some sort of deus ex machina that allowed the minor “time travel” element to be used in order to secure a happier ending, so we should be grateful that they opted to just sort of “double up” on certain scenes.

For example, our heroine, Mary (Twilight’s Rachelle LeFevre, who is quite good and endlessly watchable) has a violent ex husband, and he seems to be hellbent on getting their dog back. So we get not one but two scenes where he comes over, plays with the dog a bit, and then makes vague threats and grabs her arm or something (with the dog making no effort to protect her – why does she want him?). And without getting too far into spoiler territory (for now), our evil phone caller plays a very unusual card against Mary twice, with even the dialogue sounding pretty much the same. So again, it’s not the tightest script in the world.

But it more or less works. First off, it’s a remarkably good looking film, with Matthew Parkhill directing more like an indie drama than a horror film, to its benefit. A giant chunk of the film takes place in Mary’s kitchen, but it never gets visually dull (having LeFevre front and center doesn’t hurt – swoon), and I actually kind of dug the lack of “horror” scenes, i.e. we never actually see any of the terrible things that Rose does, and discover what happened from Mary’s point of view. The Puerto Rico locale adds plenty of rarely seen flair (I was so happy to see that the film didn’t take place in Los Angeles or some other traditional city), and you can actually feel how hot it is – for a while I was wondering if Mary was simply cracking up, with the heat making her condition worse.

Plus, LeFevre is backed up by a good cast, including fellow vamp actor Stephen Moyer as a potential love interest, and the always welcome/awesome Luis Guzman as one of her neighbors. It’s not a very action packed movie (the plot dictates that nearly everything happens off-screen, in fact), but that allows us to spend more time than usual with these folks and actually care about their fate. I legitimately felt bummed at some of the events in the film, which is rare, and even more impressive when it occurs in such an admittedly far-fetched narrative.

Spoilers ahead!

See, the nerve-wracking thing about the movie is that the woman on the phone (Rose, played by Drag Me To Hell’s Lorna Raver) holds all the cards. She’s in the past but has the ability to affect the future, i.e. Mary’s life, which at first she does in harmless ways (drawing things on her walls), but ultimately gets crazier and more violent. However Mary has no way of fighting back – no matter what she does in 2011, she can’t exactly “send back” a way of stopping her, and thus sits helplessly on the phone even as Rose does harm to her younger self. I read someone say “Don’t answer the phone”, but it’s not that simple – by this point Rose knows everything about Mary and can still do damage to her in the past whether she answers the phone or not. It’s actually quite a creepy scenario, and the turn of events are unexpectedly sad and grim.

Of course, when dealing with this sort of stuff, the logic part of your brain might kick into overdrive, not unlike a typical time travel movie. And that’s where the script’s drawn out nature hurts a bit. If they had kept up the suspense/scares/action, it might be easy to miss a few of the unexplained minor plot holes. For example, at one point Rose kills someone in 1979, thus preventing their existence in 2011. LeFevre remembers this person and asks around, but Moyer cannot remember him. Why does LeFevre retain this memory and not Moyer? Also, whenever you’re dealing with any sort of “change the past to affect the future” you know at some point you’ll see something change right before your eyes, which never makes any sense. LeFevre sees something change as she hears it happen on the phone, and while it’s a very cool effect, it’s nonsense – it should be an instantaneous change, not one that you can see form in “real time”.

So if you’re an overly analytical type, you gotta be prepared for some eye-rolling, and if you can’t “just go with it”, then again, find another movie to watch. This one’s aimed toward folks like me, who judge a movie not on its actual plot but how well that plot is conveyed, regardless of whether it holds up to real world logic. And by that measure, I have yet to see a better movie that blends Single White Female style “unhealthy obsession leads to murder” thrills with a magic telephone. It’s coming out in limited release this weekend, but I think it will play just as well/better at home - especially if you have a landline that might ring to spook you. I don’t, because my cat ate the damn wire that leads into the house and I’m too busy defending magic telephone movies to get it fixed.

What say you?


31 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting - although u know some of the timey-wimey stuff will drive me nuts; I really do tend to overanalyse time travel movies; the first two Bact to the Future movies are amongst my favourite movies ever - but when Marty is almost never born in part one, I find myself thing 'well, he won't be able to go back in time and fuck things up then - so everything will be fine!" (exceptof course that that leads to him being born, and therefore going back to fuck things up... God, I hate my brain sometimes!

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  2. Well, between me an the iPhone I garbled the he'll out of THAT comment!

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  3. i was so lost in that movey. was she crazy? did rose really exist? did she get burned when young ? but by whom ? i liked the end, she got up the courage to kill that sob !!!

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  4. Okay I really dont understand?? How is Mary suppose to be a little girl in 1979 and how is Rose even connected to her in the first place?? And how old was Mary in 2011? Why was Rose able to kill John? The movie never gave a clear understanding of the movie even at the end. I enjoyed it but I feel it could have been explained a lot better.

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    1. I agree with you, also, this review is as confusing and as abstract as the movie itself ! The movie is just a collection of some disconnected ideas of the director thrown in together in an attempt to stimulate the intellect of the watcher. The ending was abrupt.

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    2. "this review is as confusing and as abstract as the movie itself "

      Why thank you!

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    3. she was able to kill john because she searched him up in her time (1979) she killedjohn as a little boy thats why the had his pic as a kid. and rose when rose killed george (the gardener guy) johns memory got eaerased because rose killed him in her time (1979) rose killed people in her time not Mary's that's why mary knew rose would have died if she would have rode the buss to the bowling ally in (1979) because it caught on fire n wouldnt have.survived but rose was always one step ahead of her
      that why mary told her young self tobreak the mirror and kill rose, remember rose used to live their! mary was little because rose was calling the older mary fron the past. idk how they connected. I guess rose was suppose to hang herself but when she called the # she made a new friend and stayed alive so yes great.plot but the connect if.kinda messy

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  5. 1. It doesn't make sense that Mary was a little girl in the 1970s, you're right. But that's one of the many plot holes you're supposed to ignore. the movie can't seem to follow its own plot. See comment above about why Mary can remember a next door neighbor who was killed back in 1979 by the caller but John can't. Why are both John and Mary children in the 1970s when he's clearly over 40 but she's in her 20s??
    2. Rose was able to kill John as a child b/c Mary gave the caller both his first and last name, thereby identifying him.
    3. I agree with your comment about the end. What was the significance of the scar on her hand and how did she kill her ex???

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    1. In the beginning of the movie, Rose states that it's 1979 - that doesn't necessarily mean that the childhood event (with Mary) occurred then - it may have been later (80's or 90s). When Rose is taunting Mary as a child - the adult Mary states "you were supposed to have killed yourself" - leading viewers to believe that Rose changed her own fate, did not kill herself, and was the attacker who came near the end to harm the now adult Mary.

      As for the scar on her hand...at the end, Mary convinces her child self to break the mirror on the bureau and kill Rose with one of the shards before Rose kills her (child Mary). It is assumed that Mary the child succeeded, as you can still hear the little girl on the phone, and the present day attack from Rose ends. The scar is evidence that Mary killed Rose using the broken mirror shard and cut her own hand in the process.

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  6. Did I miss the part that tells us Mary was supposed to be in her 20s? In real life the actrice is 32, so she could've been playing someone a little older. Although I do think she could've been a child in the 70s, I do not think she could've been one that was as old as her child self seemed in the movie.
    I believe John explained earlier, when he was explaining (drawing) the "river of time" concept, why he later wasn't able to remember the neighbor George while Mary could. Didn't he say that the person who causes the "river" to change can still see the "trace" of what was before? Hope that's right.
    In any case, I was definitely left unfulfilled and disappointed by the ending. The viewer can come up with so many possible ideas of what is "really" happening or why things are happening that it would be nice to know whether--or not!--any of them are true/the intention of the movie. Wanting to know this is exactly how I ended up here! But, no such satisfaction from the ending. Instead, dissatisfaction and frustration. If this had been done in the slightest, would've felt like a better movie.

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  7. overall I believe it was a really good movie. i watched with a group of friends and we all were extremely disappointed with the ending.

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  8. i realy didn't get it..maybe this is the point of it,letting people wondering... everything was unclear but if it was Rose's finger on that garden how could it not be decomposed by then..

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  9. nice movie,but i feel they made it just to keep u glued to the screen..lol

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  10. If you consider that Mary is a psycho and Rose did not really make those calls, things start to make more sense, including the so called plot holes.

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    1. John Guidi actually speaks to Rose so FAIL. lol every scene would be imagination and would make no sense as the movie made sense if your smart enough. 98% percent of the movie adds up. At first I was like huh? the ending, did things add up? looked for an explanation, saw a million retarded questions, and a handful of questions that I had myself and everything about the movie made sense. If you have a question in your head about this movie SOMETHING in the movie is there to answer your question but might not be explained or explained entirely

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    2. Really? Did you work on this production. You must be the director. Nothing was really explained.

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    3. The only one big issue I had with the plot was why Mary Kee is hiding her husband's body behind the brick wall in the final scene. She has a restraining order against him, which means there has already been a ruling that the ex-husband poses a danger to Mary's safety. He assaults her while he has just broken into her home again, so she has every right to kill the crap out of him legally.

      I also don't get why Rose is both attacking the present-day and the past Mary Kee simultaneously...does that have something to do with what John had said about Mary (the person who is altering time) being the only one aware of the original and altered futures, so Rose has to kill her in the present day? Or is Rose just attacking her in present-day because (as I believe she mentions to Mary on the phone) she wants Mary to understand exactly why she is going to be killed. Mary as a girl wouldn't know...

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  11. What if Rose was Mary's crazy babysitter in 1979? And Mary just suppressed unwanted memories? (Just finished watching this movie like 10 minutes ago). Mary could of "suppressed" the thought of being burned and everything? So, when Rose called, she brought up the day she burned the Mary in 1979, effecting 2011 Mary? (Kinda like triggering a memory?) Still with me? And with the hole bowling inferno thing, Mary wanted Rose to "meet" her there so Rose would therefore die and leave her alone, ya know? And maybe Rose didn't kill those other people in 2011 (or at all). Mary just "brought them back" to deal with her unwanted memories coming back. This is my theory :D (And I'm glad she got that stupid ex husband in the end...)

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  12. I totally agree with this review- lots of plot holes but overall a very creepy experience if you let it be. The ending fell a little bit flat with me, but it could have been way worse.

    I think the importance of the scar was to show that Mary, to save her own life, became a killer at a young age, therefore programming her own brain to kill whoever is messing with her, hurting her, or scaring her. Price you pay for escaping a psycho woman who apparently ages marvelously, I guess.

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  13. ENDING
    Here’s what I think. Now that young Mary had spent time in Roses home as a child. She learned a song that crazy Rose would sing while being a visitor at her home when she was young. Most likely she finished building the wall and sang the song while Mary was visiting. Rose was crazy, lonely, and waited for the man (Bobby) to get back from war. Turned out he didn’t want her or just one girl, so she killed him and moved into his apt.

    So basically Mary killed her ex husband and from that point shes crazy, basically becoming Rose all over again.

    FROM IMDB.COM
    The original ending to the film featured a young couple being shown around the apartment after Mary has moved. The final shot focused on the telephone ringing ominously. The ending that was eventually used was actually to be the second-to-last scene in the film…

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    1. I liked the idea of the storyline and how it is creepy without any gory scenes. At first I found it odd that Mary has no friends or any family except talking to her mom on the phone.

      I was also unsure as to her ex-husband's existence, because he would just mysteriously appear and her facial expression was like he wasn't even real. Also, at the end she kills him, but I wonder how with her size and no gun she would be able to do so. Here are my thoughts:

      Like others have stated, Rose is from the past and has the ability to affect Mary's life in the present. I was confused as the whole bobby issue at the beginning that was never even addressed later on, and that it seems Mary's statement in the future that in general she wishes she had just "got rid" of her husband instead of leaving him. Rose clearly interprets this as being advice specific to her.

      Also, yeah, Mary is supposed to be a college student yet her child self sounded about 6 years old, somewhere around 1977, so that would make her almost 40.

      Anyway, it seems to me, that Rose moved into that apartment way back in 1977 after killing her husband Bobby who was cheating on her - it seems that this event happened based on what Mary said, which doesn't make sense - well, it implies that Mary can affect the past sometimes.

      I also don't understand why Rose would call the apartment and ask if Bobby was there even though it seems she killed Bobby and then moved into the apartment. I guess this is just a plot opening.

      Or I guess Rose must have killed Bobby around the same time she was moving into the apartment since she burred him in that concrete wall. It makes sense though that when Rose took Mary's "advice" to kill Bobby based on Mary's view that men never change, the brick pantry thing appears. She then meets John, who is a real person at the time. But when John picks up one of the phone calls Rose makes, he tells her his full name, and Rose must have killed his child self so that when Rose went to see John near the end, John's parents told Mary that "when she wanted to talk to John, she went to the cemetery.

      Also, when Mary goes to look up Rose in the social security system, there is no death certificate - this is the nature of the theme that during the movie, Rose and Mary are still affecting each others' lives.

      As for the gardener, he was real too, and when he told Mary about how Rose had hung herself, Rose got rid of the tattletale, and that to go dig up something near a palm tree. There is a finger in a jar, I am not sure what this is, but I think it is the gardener's finger. At this point Mary takes John while she frantically slams on the door of where the gardener was so supposed to be living.

      John doesn't remember talking with the Gardener - this may relate to his theory about the time lines and how one may still see traces of other events. So Mary remembers the gardener, but since Rose killed him (somehow in the past), it is no longer a part of John's memory.

      Near the end, of course Rose goes to kill Mary and gets herself to the present after leaving the past, leaving child Mary alone. Child Mary kills Rose and all is well, except that Mary seems to go nuts just like Rose, and kills and buries her husband in the wall, just like Rose burried her husband in the wall.

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    2. Continued from previous entry...
      As for the bowling game and the fire, I am confused. There is also the pot scene where Rose is heard saying in a flashback not to touch the hot oil. It is clear that in the past, Rose was not very good to child Mary - but I do not know why. Mary said something about it being her birthday the next day and nobody caring. There is also some story line related to Rose threatening to kill Mary's mom, and there are many pictures shown of Mary and her mom in the past - perhaps Mary's mom was one of Bobby's mistresses, perhaps even Bobby's child via an affair.

      As for the bad blood between the past Rose and Mary, I have no clue, except for my theory that Mary is Bobby's child because Mary's Mom was one of his mistresses.

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  14. It's a PSYCHOLOGICAL thriller guys it's SUPPOSED to mess with your mind. And quite frankly I thought the movie was great as did the other 80 people that watched it with me.

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  15. I'm starting to think that Mary was the killer and just ”forgot” she was. So Rose was ”calling” her to remind her. Idk... I'm confused!! Lol ... anyone care to explain?

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  16. I just watched the movie. I thought 1979 and 2004 were happening at the same time. And, Rose killed herself after Mary didn't answer, becoming a ghost haunting Mary or following her explaining why she was in all of her childhood pictures and at the carnival. But, then Rose buried her finger, and I thought well ghosts don't have fingers. I thought after being burned and almost killed by Rose as a child that Mary is now insane and kills her husband. I feel like I got the ending but just decided to accept it.

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  17. Most won't check this post after their much older ones, which is fine but this is for any future watcher and researcher of The Caller. The movie was fantastic and it did have that Twilight Zone vibe, on purpose. The only illogical part was the supernatural situation, where Rose can call Mary in the future from the 1970s. Why is this? Maybe it's the phone that is cursed (Rose did originally die by hanging herself by a phone chord in that same apartment). This might start the link that others could reason as the "Why" or even "How" in this movie. Everything else was clearly explained and posts from others on here such as Sabrina, are so FAR off base it made me literally shake my head and face palm. "I think that the thing she dug up was the gardeners finger"; Really? Considering it had fingernail polish on it and Rose was talking about how it affected HER and made HER look out of the ordinary in the future, I would say a "100% fact" no to that theory. Rose was originally there, and she was killed by child Mary from the past with a piece of glass. The only confusing part is the parallel timeline, where rose never would of been able to break into her apartment but all of this was reality to us, not reality itself as we were, in a sense, seeing the movie through Mary's eyes. The door that Rose broke into near the end was fixed all of a sudden, but Mary still remembered it. This goes back to the theory made by John where only Mary can remember the past, but everyone else around her can't. Strange yes, but this theory was introduced in the movie, therefore it clears up the plothole theories based around that fact because in "The Caller", that is the explanation of it. The end did confuse me somewhat where Mary had repeated what Rose originally did, but you have to consider maybe this is the connection to everything. Maybe she will then make a future phone call to the next apartment owner 30 years or so into the future. As stated in one of the comments above, that is what had originally happened but it was cut out. So my theory did prove to be right as all of the others. The movie makes 100% sense, but it IS a psychological/supernatural movie so it does have some "out of the ordinary" moments, but in "The Caller" world, everything made sense in that situation.

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  18. I was going to say the same thing about the cursed phone due to Rose hanging herself with the cord. I liked the movie a lot - original idea and terrifying in its implications. Rose looked pretty good for someone who was 42 in the late 70s. She would have been at least 67 when she was plowing through multiple doors with the ax. lol But maybe she was just "crazy strong." I would have liked the original ending with the new couple moving in better after Mary bricked up her ex. I would recommend this movie.

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  19. Ok, does anyone realize that SHE is crazy. let me explain

    first of all, the phone is placed in the middle of a kitchen island, when a phone should not be there, and there would be better phones at that time. THERE FOR the phone is made up

    basicly, mary was traumatized as a kid by this rose, mary ends up killing her, and decideds to block and forget about all this.

    she grows up and then gets in another abusive relation ship bringing back memories. Those dead people are all people that the phycopath rose killed, including her boyfriend bobby, the gardener, and then the little kid, josh?

    mary is just remembering all this in the form of a phone call,

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