When a Killer CallsDVD Review

DVD released by The Asylum

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Directed by Peter Mervis
Written by Peter Mervis and Steve Bevilacqua
Runtime – 91 minutes
Rated R

Starring:
Rebekah Kochan as Trisha
Mark Irvingsen as Madman
Sarah Hall as Chrissy
Robert Buckley as Matt
Derek Osedach as Frank
Chriss Anglin as Mr. Walker

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The Story

Remember that old urban legend about a lonely babysitter receiving threatening phone calls at night, only to discover the calls to be coming from inside the house?

Of course you do.

Part of the fun of watching horror movies, particularly ones based off of pop culture horror stories such as the “stranger on the phone,” is knowing what to expect beforehand, but being unsure of when it will happen. Horror movies often build suspense by allowing a string of bizarre and everyday coincidences to occur. Gasp! The rustling behind the trash cans is just a stray cat. Shudder! The person in the shadows is just the best friend. By the third scare, however, the character believes the real terror that awaits them is just another harmless coincidence. In the book of old horror tricks, however, third time’s a charm, and it often results in a harmful (or fatal) attack that leaves audiences cheering.

Horror movies can be engaging in this respect but only if they are done with style and novelty. After all, there are only so many false scares a viewer can take.

The most recent theatrical adaptation of this tale, appropriately titled When a Stranger Calls, overdosed on false alarms and became quite an irritating film. If it wasn’t the cat making strange noises, it was the fridge. If it wasn’t the best friend setting off the security system, it was the housekeeper. If it wasn’t a person standing behind the heroine, it must have been a coat rack, or a stuffed animal, or maybe even a giant bottle of Unisom. It certainly would’ve been nice to have the audience pass around.

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What’s even more interesting is When a Stranger Calls never brought in the inventions of cell phones with text and picture messaging. Wouldn’t it be scarier to receive a picture of the children sleeping rather than a phone call asking if you’ve checked on them recently?

When a Killer Calls, a brooding and bloody slasher movie, utilizes this modern technology to its advantage. The PG-13 Stranger turns R-rated Killer in this suspenseful and creative horror film from The Asylum Home Entertainment — their best outing yet.

Trisha (Rebekah Kochan – Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers) is a beautiful teenager babysitting for the Walkers. While the parents are out for dinner, Trisha and young Molly (Carissa Bodner) entertain themselves by watching television and eating ice cream. As a thunderstorm brews, Molly reluctantly hits the sack.

“There’s nothing to be scared of,” Trisha tells a nervous Molly. “I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

Then the phone calls and text messaging begin, and it’s not from a relentless telemarketer. “Have you checked the girl?” an ominous voice asks. “You’re next,” reads the latest text message on Trisha’s cell phone. And did I mention all of the pictures Trisha receives of gagged children and a lady with a knife through her head? Babysitting is so complicated these days.

Peter Mervis, director, co-writer, and editor of When a Killer Calls, has single-handedly improved over his first horror film, Dead Men Walking. Unlike Walking, a striving but flawed zombie movie, Killer is less ambitious and easier to keep up with. It’s a simple story of a girl and a killer, and it pays off extremely well by never exceeding the limitations of its budget or practicality.

Leading actress Rebekah Kochan, who plays the babysitter Trisha, is straightforward and realistic. She is constantly convincing, and the easy-flowing dialogue between her and the killer builds some clever but genuine suspense. The killer and Trisha are a lot of fun, albeit you’ll feel a little uncomfortable in some of the more claustrophobic scenes, specifically those with Trisha and her friends being tied up and tortured in the basement.

And yes, these people are tortured. Don’t take that loosely. Much of violence is rather satirical as well, so it’s fun to guess when these characters will die and in what manner. In the vein of Tamara, a surprising horror gem that’s making its way around select theaters now, most of the characters die because of their own imperfections. A pretty boy has his face bashed in. A peeping neighbor gets his eyes gouged out. A bimbo has her knockers cut so deep that they nearly fall off. The special effects are top-notch, too, but only those that are practical. The knife-through-the-head effect is definitely superior (Mervis shines as an editor in this sequence), but the CGI gunshots toward the end of the movie are unintentionally cheesy.

There are other flaws, including lapses in logic and some shoddy acting from the supporting cast, but they’re not too distracting. If you have to think about what’s wrong with the picture, you’re reading too much into it.

There are two types of horror fans — the nit-picky and the open-minded.

Enjoying When a Killer Calls depends on which type you are.

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Extras

  • Cast and Crew Commentary
  • Behind the Scenes Featurette
  • Outtakes
  • Trailers

The first special feature on the disc is a commentary with director/editor/co-writer Peter Mervis and line producer Brian Garland. Offensive, offbeat, and extremely funny, this is exactly what a commentary should be.

Two men, two different personalities, one extremely good time.

Mervis provides the more technical aspect of making the film, while Garland stands by as a wacky sidekick mouthing off puns faster than Robin Williams switches personalities. Everyone, from those interested in making movies, to people who just want to laugh, will enjoy this commentary. I had a great time.

The 10-minute Behind the Scenes featurette is informative and entertaining. The cast and crew have brief interviews throughout the featurette, discussing their characters and some experiences on set (actress Kochan actually has her finger stomped on by her castmate, Mark Irvingsen). The crew talks about the camera, the lighting, and location.

The outtakes run two minutes and never lost my interest for a second.

Trailers for Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers, King of the Lost World/em>, Dead Men Walking, Shapshifter, and When a Killer Calls.

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Video

When a Killer Calls looks pretty good in its 16:9 widescreen presentation, though the grain and washed out colors are incredibly distracting. The movie is very dark at times, and the red hues seem distorted amongst the blues and blacks.

However, like Shapeshifter and King of the Lost World, the movie is one of the more focused efforts from The Asylum.

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Audio

The Asylum has yet to disappoint me in the sound department, and When a Killer Calls’ 5.1 Surround Sound is no exception. The audio track is very clean, using the back speakers more often than I anticipated. Even the commentary track is steady and clear.

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Overall

Movie - *** ½ / ***** - A taut and surprisingly riveting horror movie.

Picture - ** ½ / ***** - I was disappointed by the grain and washed out colors.

Audio – **** / ***** - Loud and clear.

Special Features – *** ½ / ***** - All of the special features are worth a view or listen.

Overall – *** ½ / ***** - The movie is The Asylum’s best yet. The DVD is a decent release as well.

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Summary

This is exactly the kind of movie The Asylum should be releasing.

When a Killer Calls is an occasionally suspenseful and riveting experience on a well-rounded DVD.

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