The Caller

Our Halloween countdown continues with this fright-flick about phantom phone calls.

Despite the presence of actors Rachelle (Twilight) Lefevre and Stephen (True Blood) Moyer in its lead roles, The Caller has nothing to do with creatures of the night with pointy teeth. Instead, Matthew Parkhill's film has more in common with the decade-old sci-fi drama Frequency. But, whereas that film dealt with a son and father connecting across 30 years via a radio link, The Caller has Lafevre's character being bothered by a batty old lady from the past with murder on her mind.

The film casts Lafevre as Mary Kee, a troubled divorcee who has recently taken a restraining order out against her aggressive ex Steve (Ed Quinn). Attempting to make a fresh start for herself, Mary moves into a (rather tatty) new apartment and begins attending night classes at a nearby school, where she starts up a relationship with one of the teachers (Stephen Moyer). But trouble has a way of following her, and on top of some seriously disturbing stalker-esque behaviour from he ex, Mary is constantly harassed by phone calls from a lady called Rose (voiced by Drag Me to Hell's Lorna Raver) who claims that its 1979. Naturally, Mary is pretty sceptical until Rose proves capable of changing the lives of Mary and the people around her through actions she performs in the past. And this seriously unstable old lady definitely isn't someone you'd want messing around in your past.

The Caller has a quite a few things in its favour. The set-up is intriguing and ripe for horrific consequences, the main cast put in solid performances and director Matthew Parkhill proves quite adept at cranking up the tension and knowing how to make repeated scenes of Lafevre talking on a phone visually interesting. But, there's a major problem than none of this manages to circumvent - there simply isn't enough material here to justify a one-and-a-half-hour running time. What we have here is a story that would work perfectly as an episode of The Twilight Zone or as part of an anthology film. But as a 91-minute film the narrative starts fairly strongly before sinking into a deep torpor for the second act and then desperately trying to rouse itself and the audience in time for a dramatic finale.

While the director brings a fair amount of style to the film, The Caller still manages to be a fairly drab film visually speaking. This is, of course, entirely in keeping with the attempts to externalise Mary Kee's emotional state early on in the film - but it doesn't exactly make for the most exciting AVC 1.85:1 1080p Blu-ray encode on the market. Indeed, flesh tones are often so pallid that you'd be forgiven for thinking that both Lafevre and Moyer were playing the undead yet again. Detail levels in the film prove to be fairly inconsistent, but this appears to be more down to the filmmakers' employing slightly soft visual style in many scenes that - when combined with the dull colour palette - sacrifices clarity and sharpness for atmosphere.

Unsurprisingly, given the subject matter, the Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is equally unexciting. In terms of tonality and fidelity it's undoubtedly true to the source material. But, outside of a few directional atmospheric effects across the rear speakers, there's very little to separate this from a competent 2.0 Surround soundtrack. Compounding the disc's lack of impact are the extras - just four deleted scenes (6mins/1080p) that make you realise that this already stretched film could actually have run for even longer. All said, it's a pretty forgettable hi-def package for a film that's unlikely to get horror fans particualrly excited.

Universal Pictures, All-region BD, £20 approx, On sale now