The Calling (2014)

Written for RAF News October 2014

The humble town of Port Dundas, Ontario sees its first murder in four years, which Detective Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) supposes is the work of a serial killer. This is no mystery for the audience as we are soon introduced to the murderer (Christopher Heyerdahl): an intense yet softly spoken preacher of sorts. Now it is up to Hazel and her new partner (Topher Grace) to track him down before the spree continues.

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With a strong headed female detective on the trail of a murderer in this snow-covered humdrum town, the film begins as Fargo, drained of its humour and left frighteningly austere. As the police start to work a religious angle that ties in local murders it becomes something more akin to Seven – just without the tension.

Hazel is painted a cold, pill-popping alcoholic toughened to the point of being allergic to flowers. Sarandon doesn’t seem the right fit, neither do the other big names of the cast, rather it is Gil Bellows whose performance stands out as Hazel’s combative partner. All other characters seem to fall flat or go to waste, including Donald Sutherland’s answer-providing priest who appears to explain the motive of the killer – the why – and considering we know the who from early on the slow pace seems unnecessary.

In the opening of the film when Sarandon stumbles upon the first victim, a family friend who is found with her throat cut to the point of near decapitation, it seems that that what is going to follow is a dark cat and mouse thriller – but we soon learn that this is an anomalous bit of action in a larger melodramatic film.

Shaken from their stupor it is hard to imagine how boring the town must have been before this advent, as even the pursuit of a murderer is somehow made dull and uninteresting.

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