The Call

Mar 17, 2013

Learn about 911 Call Centers; weep for an imaginative thriller.

The Call
Grade: C
Director: Brad Anderson (The Machinist)
Screenplay: Richard D’Ovidio (Exit Wounds)
Cast: Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Rating: R
by John DeSando

Is The Call a thriller or a horror film? Both, and because of that split personality, the film may leave you feeling cheated that it couldn’t be one or the other. The plot reveals the mix:

911 operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) takes 2 different calls linked by the abductions of 2 comely teenage girls. For the second one, with Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) abducted into a stalker’s trunk, Berry talks her through the crisis with professional dexterity as the police try to locate the moving vehicle.  That’s boilerplate thriller, nothing new, just a chase against time with a lunatic and his hysterical victim.

The horror part, about the last third, is the grisly series of acts by the psycho abductor. When his motivations are clarified through flashbacks, memories of Silence of the Lambs occur, albeit The Call is no way even close to the expert tale telling and scares of that movie. But his lair with various perverted, Norman-Bates-like motifs, certifies its horror underpinnings.

With this split personality, the preposterous  circumstances and actions lack rationale, out of sync with the logos of the first third, which was an effective exposition of the 911 process. In fact, that segment was more a docudrama, making it a tripartite film—call center, abduction, and vengeance.  Yes, you’ve seen it all already except the inside of a call center.

I should end fittingly about the ending.  It is illogical, even more so than the amount of time Jordan is on the phone without help and supervision. But this is the dead zone time of year, so go learn about 911call centers and ruminate about Halle Berry’s better films.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel. Contact him at