BY JES ELLACOTT
Hollywood loves a good phone call.
Think of the four-way split screen phone ambush from Mean Girls or Mel Gibson losing it on the kidnapper in Ransom.
Yesterday, another phone call fuelled thriller was released. The Call, starring Halle Berry and directed by Brad Anderson, is about a 911 operator who receives a call from a girl who has been abducted; she must confront a killer in order to save the girl’s life. While it may sound like an episode of Criminal Minds on steroids, The Call takes the oft-used device of the phone call and makes it the driving force behind the action of the film.
Here are five other films that answer that call.
5) Sorry, Wrong Number
Sorry, Wrong Number is a 1948 film noir directed by Anatole Litvak and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. It is about Leona (played by Stanwyck, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress for the role), a bedridden woman who overhears a murder plot on a crossed telephone connection. Through a series of phone calls she attempts to unravel the mystery, which involves her husband, her father and a host of other shadowy figures. Even though it was made 65 years ago Sorry, Wrong Number still stands up as a great suspense film and a testament to the dramatic power of a good phone call.
4) The Matrix
Now The Matrix might not be in most people’s top five phone call films and admittedly it’s the odd one out here, but I can’t resist a good nod to sci-fi. The Matrix is a kung-fu fantasy about hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) who finds out that his 20th century reality is actually a 22nd century dystopia controlled by a massive artificial intelligence system known as the Matrix. How is this a phone call film, you ask? Well. A major plot point in the movie is that red pills (those who are aware of the true nature of the Matrix) use landline phones to leave the Matrix, making phone calls a significant element in the Matrix universe.
3) Phone Booth
Directed by Joel Schumacher, Phone Booth sees Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) as an arrogant New York City publicist who uses the last phone booth in the city to contact his mistress. There, he receives a call from a hidden sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) who informs Stu that if he hangs up, he will be shot. The rest of this 80-minute film plays out with more than its share of tension and some impressive acting on the part of Mr. Farrell. Successful in its simplicity and a refreshing antithesis to some of the bigger budgets of that year (2002 was the year of The Two Towers, Chamber of Secrets, Spider-Man and Star Wars: Episode II, to name a few) Phone Booth is *ahem* worth picking up.
2) When a Stranger Calls
You can’t discuss teenaged girls being harassed by menacing phone calls without mentioning When a Stranger Calls (the 1979 version, not the 2006 remake). The film is about a babysitter (Carol Kane) who receives some disturbing calls, only to find out that they’re coming from inside the house. The psychopathic killer responsible for the calls—and the murder of the kids she’s babysitting—is locked up but escapes seven years later to terrorize her again. This one is heavy on the camp, but still provides a few good scares and is definitely a classic of the genre.
“What’s your favorite scary movie?”
Scream was the iconic first step into the revisionist era of the slasher movie; the first time that characters in a horror film were aware of the tropes of the genre. It earns a spot on this list because of the opening scene, the now-famous phone call between Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) and the killer. The conversation starts flirtatiously but then turns downright nasty, culminating in the delightfully grisly murder of Casey and her boyfriend. The film then unfolds in mostly typical slasher fashion while unashamedly exploiting the genre’s clichés. Seventeen years later and it’s still a scream.
Jes Ellacott is a Toronto-based writer and filmmaker. She loves cupcakes and dinosaurs and spends way too much time checking out Doctor Who memes on imgur. Follow her on Twitter @jes_e!