I was poking around on Amazon Instant Video this weekend, looking for a bad horror movie to rent, when I came across this one. The premise sounded overly familiar – young woman receives increasingly scary phone calls — but it had an intriguing, potentially ludicrous (yay!) twist that caught my eye. The young woman? Answering the phone in 2009. The phone calls? Coming from 1979.
Well, now, just how am I supposed to resist THAT? Time travel AND cheesy horror? It’s like someone crafted this movie just for me (though, obviously, if that were truly the case, it would’ve co-starred Richard Dean Anderson, not Stephen Moyer, but never mind. . .).
The young woman is Mary (Rachelle Lefevre, from ABC’s Off the Map), and she’s in the middle of a hellish divorce, having only recently gotten up the gumption to leave her abusive husband. Finally on her own, she moves into an old apartment building — cheap, convenient, and though not in the best of neighborhoods, certainly good enough for the time being. She even makes a friend right away: her neighbor George (Luis Guzmán, a fave of mine), who turns out to be the building’s gardener, as well as its longest resident (he grew up there). The only thing that seems sort of strange is that the apartment comes with its own phone already installed — an old rotary-style phone. But hey, that just saves her from having to deal with the hassle of installing a land line, right?
Her first night, though, she realizes the problem with inheriting a phone number from a previous resident when she gets a phone call from an older woman (age 50 or so) asking for someone named “Bobby.” Mary explains the situation — she just moved in, there’s no Bobby there anymore — and the woman hangs up.
The next night, she calls again, and this time becomes furious when Mary repeats she has just moved into the apartment and hasn’t met anyone named Bobby. The caller insists she just saw him inside the apartment, at the window, and accuses Mary of lying to cover up an affair. Distraught by the woman’s anger and more than a little freaked out, Mary hangs up.
But the calls continue. Finally, the woman explains what’s going on — her boyfriend Bobby, who, sure, is abusive but totally loves her you know, hasn’t been returning her calls. Yet she knows he adores her — he proposed to her once, even, right before he left for the Vietnam War.
Whoa, ho, ho, hold up. The what now? Mary assumes the woman is just crazy, but the woman, who introduces herself as “Rose,” figures out what’s happening right away — their lines are crossed. IN TIME.
To prove it to Mary, Rose says, “I’m going to go draw something in the pantry, and when you go look, it’ll be there!” But Mary opens the pantry door and sees nothing. She yells at Rose to leave her alone, and heads to bed. Something bugs her all night long, though, and she finally gets up to look again. Sure enough, it’s been wall-papered over. She scrapes the paper off to find a drawing of a rose right there on the wall, just like Rose said it would be.
When Rose calls again, she begs Mary to talk to her for a little while. She’s lonely. Just five minutes. So they begin to chat, Mary still believing she’s a nut job and that the rose in the pantry was a coincidence. They end up comparing notes about their abusive partners, and Mary says, after describing the way her ex-husband is making the divorce proceedings drag on forever, “Sometimes I wish I had just gotten RID of him, instead of walking out.”
The next night, Rose calls again, this time giddy because she “took Mary’s advice.” When Mary figures out Rose means she killed Bobby, she panics and hangs up the phone. Then she goes to the pantry, opens the door. . . and finds it’s been bricked up! BOBBY’S IN THERE!
Mary stops answering the phone (yeah, took her long enough to come up with that idea, right?), until one evening she picks it up thinking it’s her mother and finds an angry Rose on the other end of the line. This time, Rose makes it clear if Mary doesn’t do what she wants, she will track her and her mother down in 1979 and kill them. Or kill someone important to Mary — a friend, a boyfriend, someone. They were all alive back then, after all, though children, and Rose has all the control in 1979 — there’s absolutely nothing Mary can do to stop her.
From there, enter a series of brutal murders, with people simply disappearing in the present after they’ve been taken out in the past. Though there’s an attempt at one point to explain why Mary can remember events from both timelines (that is, she remembers the pantry before it was bricked up, even though, having been changed in 1979, she shouldn’t have ever seen it NOT bricked up), it doesn’t really make much sense, I confess. The theory, posited by Mary’s new boyfriend (Stephen Moyer), who accepts this whole time travel theory with curious calm, I must say, is that Mary can remember things from both timelines because she’s been directly involved in the alterations. Well, but, hmm. Huh? She hasn’t really been any more involved in the alterations than HE has; after all, he’s seen things before and after too, never remembering the “befores,” and he’s also talked to Rose. The thing is, however unclear a theory that might be, I always appreciate it when there’s at least an attempt to explain these sorts of things in a movie. Just TRY, people. Give it a shot. For my sake, if not your own. (Hear that, Connie Willis? Yeah, you heard it.)
The end of the film, which involves death-matches in both timelines happening simultaneously, was FOR SERIOUS fun. And though the acting from Lefevre was pretty ho-hum, everybody else did a fine job, and the story was original and entertaining.
Though it was made in 2009 and then shelved, this film’s been lately making the rounds of various film festivals, undoubtedly because Stephen Moyer is famous now (from HBO’s True Blood). My guess is that it’ll go straight to DVD without a theatrical release, which is too bad because I would’ve enjoyed this in the theater and it’s certainly no worse than other theatrical horror flicks I’ve seen recently (The Ward, e.g.). Sure, the plot is a bit gooferoo. But it’s also an interesting concept. At least it’s a unique one, anyway — that counts for a lot in my book. (My book is very small.)
Definitely recommended to fans of this kind of stuff, and well worth the $6.99 rental fee at Amazon (I would’ve gladly paid full theater ticket price for it, after all, and this way, I got to watch it in my PJs — aces!).
[Prequeue at Neflix | Available for streaming at Amazon.com | View trailer]
Cast: Rachelle Lefevre, Stephen Moyer, Luis Guzmán, Ed Quinn