September 24, 2014

DVD Review: The Calling (2014)

A few weeks ago, I was perusing the upcoming weekend movie schedule. I was plotting what movies to see, what order, and if there were any interesting small releases to potentially check out. One of the movies I came across was The Calling. It was playing at a theater about an hour drive away and was the only one that I was potentially interested in driving that far for. It looked interesting, had a good cast, and the trailer seemed to be hiding something. Ultimately, I chose not to make the drive, and now, watching the movie on DVD, I think I made the right decision. This is not a movie worth driving fifteen minutes for, much less an hour.

To be certain, I have seen worse films, much worse. The thing about The Calling is that it is ultimately boring, uninteresting, and just feels like a waste of talent. The movie was directed by Jason Stone, making his feature directorial debut. His highest profile project would be This is the End, which he co-wrote and served as executive producer. I must admit, when I saw that I took a double take. How do you go from helping write one of the funniest comedies of the past few years to directing one of the blandest? I don't have an answer for that, except to say this was his feature opportunity and you have to start somewhere. Screenplay duties were handled by Scott Abramovitch, it was also his first feature, adapting the novel by Inger Ash Wolf.

Susan Sarandon stars as Hazel Micallef, a police detective in a small Canadian town who has a history of drug and alcohol problems, used in part to self medicate a back problem. Things are progressing as usual for her until she discovers a grisly murder scene. It is a bit exciting as it is the first murder in years. Then another body is discovered and Hazel begins to wonder if there is a serial killer in their midst. She, along with her fellow detectives, local Ray (Gil Bellows) and new arrival Ben (Topher Grace), begin to investigate.

The identity of the killer is not hidden, we are introduced to Simon (Christopher Heyerdal). Simon is a religious herbalist who kills to release people from their pain as a sacrifice to Christ. Leading up to that early reveal we do have the one interesting element, the dead have had their faces manipulated to appear as if they were speaking. Interesting calling card for a killer when you put the faces together. Aside from that, the reveal relieves any potential tension, putting the weight of the film on the backs of the cast and their performances. It is a shame the story is not up to the task.

The Calling plays out like a blend of Fargo and Seven, while never getting anywhere close to either of them. We have the small town cop aspect with Susan Sarandon's Hazel, recalling Marge Gunderson, and the killer with a plan based in religion like Seven. I just wish it were interesting. I found myself checking my watch while simultaneously waiting for something to happen. Once the bit with the mouths was done, I was left to my own devices.

Again, I have seen much worse films. It is technically sound, it looks decent, with its drab color scheme, and its attempted focus on character over cheap thrills. Frankly, I would have welcomed some cheap thrills. Of course, it gave me a little time to look at the presentation. The 2.40:1 widescreen presentation is decent, there were no real issues to be found with it, outside of the dull colors, which is more due to the intent of the source than the transfer. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it does the trick, although it is far from lively, and is fairly centered being a dialogue driven piece. Its lone extra is brief making of featurette.

Not Recommended.

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