With the recent resurgence of South Korean horror and the likes of ‘Train to Busan’ ‘Time To Hunt’ and ‘#Alive’ dominating the landscape, 2020’s twisted time travelling slasher ‘The Call’ manages to carve out its own piece of the crowded genre with an original story and a pair of stellar performances. ‘The Call’ takes full advantage of its unlikely premise about two young girls of the same age from two distinct time periods, who strike a new found friendship through the use of an old landline phone which connects the pair through time and possibly space.
Our journey begins when Seo-Yeon, a young woman caring for her sick mother, moves back into her old family home. It is within these walls where she finds the dreaded Landline which connects her to young-sook, a troubled young woman who lives under the harsh rules of her sadist mother. The pair initially strike up a budding friendship when they discover that they live almost 20 years apart. Spending countless nights staying up late and chatting about past and future events until they fall asleep. However, it’s not until the girls realise they can alter the past through Seo-Yeon’s knowledge of the future, does the movie take a decidedly darker turn.
Director Lee Chung-hyun takes any pre-established concepts of time travel and completely flips them on their head. He weaves a delicate tale spanning two decades both being continuously altered by the other. We all know that by altering the past it can have lasting implications on the future, dating back to the classic Back to the future series and even more recently with Christopher Nolan’s mind bending Tenet. However, the call presents its take on time travel through stunning visual effects that are more akin to the great Thanos snap from 2018’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. We watch as Young-sooks actions in the past instantaneously effect the present and more so on Seo-Yeons home life. The changes are sudden and happen in real time, one moment she could be sat at the dinner table laughing and eating with her family and friends, the next she helplessly watches as they burst into dust before her eyes.
Visually, The Call is beautiful. It’s Cinematography deserves commending with its striking imagery and as mentioned previously, outstanding visual effects. What’s more impressive is the distinct art style differences between the two time periods. Chung-hyun paints the past with a golden atheistic giving it the appearance of a ‘better time’ despite most of the killing taking place there, when compared to the dull and washed out blues in place for the present. It’s truly a feast for the eyes and works wonders during the movies final act when the action flickers between the past and present, it would have been difficult to follow if not for the clear difference in visuals.
The Call contains a certain sense of cruelty within it’s characters. We learn early on that Young-sook harbours dark intentions which are only heightened when her new found friendship slowly fades as Seo-Yeon begins to enjoy her new life with her father. Jealous and enraged, young sook sets into motion, a deadly game of cat and mouse which has life shattering implications for Seo-Yeon.
The performances given by these two actors are polarising. Both drastically different from the other, yet equally as powerful. Jong-seo Jun’s take on the menacing young-sook delivers an explosive performance while her character delights in bloodshed and the power of taking lives, her personality growing larger with every kill. Opposite her is Park Shin-Hye portrayal of the gentle Seo-yeon. A tragic character and the emotional anchor for the movie. It’s through her development where ‘The Call’ outshines it’s competition. When we first meet her, she’s is blindsided by her past, stuck reliving the death of her father, but by the films climax she’s desperately fighting for her family’s future. There’s a great contrast in characters within this movie and their journey’s are a joy to watch unfold.
What weighs this movie down lies within its final act. Without diving into spoiler territory, I felt as though ‘The call’ lost it’s way towards the end. The violence becomes mindless even a bit over the top at times, and despite this being a movie where the audience must suspend their disbelief ever so slightly, certain characters have some questionable survival tactics which completely pulled me out of the moment. Even in the final scene, I found myself annoyed with the route the filmmakers decided to take it, after its story had already come to its natural conclusion, and it’s clear the idea of a franchise took priority over a satisfying ending.
Overall ‘The Call’ is a fantastic movie, don’t let its sour ending put you off from its intriguing story and great characters. Fans of horror and thrillers alike will find much entertainment in its chilling kills and inventive use of time travel. This is one ‘call’ you don’t want to miss.
Crime, Horror | South Korea, 2020 | 18 | Released 27th November 2020 | Netflix Original | Dir.Chung-Hyun Lee | Park Shin-Hye, Jong-seo Jun, Sung-ryung Kim, El Lee, Park Ho-San