[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Call"
By William Schwartz | Published on
Seo-yeon (played by Park Shin-hye) is a woman in her late twenties forced into an obscure property In Yeongcheon due to the worsening medical condition of her mother, here played by Kim Sung-ryung. This takes a turn for the weird when Seo-yeon starts receiving ominous phone calls from Yeong-sook (played by Jeon Jong-seo), who is clearly under the impression she is talking to someone else. The two bond over Seo Taiji, which is a decent if rather specific clue for where "The Call" ends up going.
Word to the wise- avoid reading the Netflix description for "The Call" if at all possible. It manages to contain a major spoiler despite being considerably shorter than your typical tweet. Reading that spoiler didn't ruin the movie for me by any means, but "The Call" is a movie that thrives on its effective use of mysterious atmosphere. Director Lee Chung-hyun makes that much clear from the earliest scenes, which contrast a modern-day social drama with a past day freak show.
Jeon Jong-seo nails her role as the disturbed young woman from the past. She's frequently creepy yet pitiful and oddly kind of relatable. Lee El puts in a similarly strong performance as Yeong-sook's stepmother, who's unsettling for a completely different set of reasons. Yet despite these two being the most interesting characters by far, "The Call" is consistently and impressively framed by Seo-yeon's relatively clueless point of view. So much of the story ends up hinging on her making a very bad decision.
It's an understandable bad decision, mind you. Like, let's be realistic here, I don't know how many wise decisions you would make if you had access to a magical time traveling phone. But then that's what makes "The Call" such a shockingly effective genre flick. The magical time traveling phone isn't as important as you'd think because it's the characters are in focus. Nevertheless, the continuity is fantastic, and attentive viewers can probably make a reasonably good guess as to the exact origin of the magical time traveling phone.
At the same time "The Call" isn't just good as a genre film. On a technical level this movie is outstanding, to the point I was disappointed I couldn't watch it in a theater. The sound design is fantastic. Director Lee Chung-hyun constantly, deliberately takes us from moments of fearing bumps in the night to moments of unwarranted security with only a few well-placed cues. Despite being legitimately frightening there's not a jump scare to be found in "The Call" as every single spooky scene is legitimately tense.
I just love the powerful nightmarescaping in this movie. This is most obvious in the latter portions, where we're explicitly transported to a horrific alternate reality- but this is as a state of mind more than literally speaking. The whole movie reads like it might just be Seo-yeon having a nervous breakdown and who knows? Maybe she is. "The Call" has a full hour's worth of questioning your own sanity crammed into its runtime, and I loved every minute of it.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea from 2011 to 2021. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Hangzhou, where he studies Chinese film. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org, and is open to requests for content in future articles.