“I’ve never seen anything like this.”
With so many great TV shows about serial killers and police procedurals, it’s hard to find The Calling appealing. It’s getting more difficult to direct an engaging and suspenseful film in just a two hour period because these series have more time to explore the characters and allow us to engage with them. If directors want to have success with this genre it’s necessary to come up with either an intriguing and original story or give the film a unique artistic style. The Calling does neither of the two. This is director Jason Stone’s first full feature length film, and despite having Susan Sarandon in the star role there is very little about this procedural that feels authentic or new. Everything about this film feels recycled from other better movies or series and even the fact that the story centers on a strong female lead isn’t new anymore (Fargo is a film that easily comes to mind) and neither is its sombre tone.
The film was adapted by Scott Abramovitch from Inger Ash Wolfe’s novel and it centers around a local small town detective named Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) who really hasn’t had much to do during her years of service. She drinks a lot of alcohol to fight her depression and she continues to live with her mother, Emily (Ellen Burstyn) with whom she doesn’t seem to get along too well. One day she discovers a gruesome murder of one of the town’s old ladies and as she investigates the case she is convinced it’s the work of a serial killer. Hazel and her partner, Detective Ray (Gil Bellows), welcome a new and young officer, Ben Wingate (Topher Grace), who has transferred from a big city and is eager to help on the case. They discover that there have been a number of unrelated murders in nearby towns and that these killings all seem to be spiritual so they consult on the case with Father Price (Donald Sutherland). But as they get closer to the killer the more exposed they are.
To be honest the film does do a decent job at building the suspense and keeping the audience interested in what is going on during the first half of the movie. Unfortunately the film loses its appeal during the second part and the resolution is far from being memorable. It’s unfortunate because the cast is rather strong and Sarandon delivers a solid performance, but her character is a walking cliche and one we’ve seen represented in movies many times before. The talented Donald Sutherland and Ellen Burstyn are completely wasted in this film and they could’ve been given much more to do with their roles instead of simply showing up a couple of times on screen. There simply isn’t anything here that makes The Calling stand out from other films in the genre, and that is its greatest crime.