“My resume belies some of my appetite for gross out humor,” laughs the South African born, Toronto-raised producer of the Seth Rogen hit This Is the End.
But today we’re not talking about his edgy work with Rogen, his writing (he co-wrote the satanic comedy Teen Lust which debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival this year) or his award winning short films.
“I love using the scope of filmmaking and really getting the wheels turning,” he says, “being larger than life and creating a world. I thought The Calling had all of that, elements of mystery and comedy and drama, that I thought were a real draw.”
The Calling is his feature directing debut and stars Susan Sarandon as small-town Canadian cop tracking down a serial killer.
“I still pinch myself that it all came together the way it did,” he says. “There’s a saying in casting, ‘Who’s going to be your cast magnet?’ We had a pretty powerful magnet with Susan and once she was involved we were able to attract talent as diverse as the top line cast, Topher [Grace], Ellen [Burstyn] and Donald [Sutherland].”
The movie is a throwback to, as Stone says, “propulsive thrillers with big ideas executed by brilliant actors.” He says movies like Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider and Silence of the Lambs, “used to be the bread and butter back in the early 90s and if we could even be put in the same breath as any of those I’d be thrilled.”
“Those are some of my favorite movies of that era. There is so much character in them. I feel like the studios have replaced a lot of the character in those mid range films with spectacle. It takes a lot more money to make your money back so you have to appeal to a much broader audience. I guess that means adding robots.”
Not that he’s unwilling to make a mega movie one day.
“I hope to have a long career making the films I’d love to make,” he says, “so if the right story comes along and there’s a budget behind it I feel like I’d definitely jump at the chance if there was a story I could connect to and I thought there was some humanity to it. I would like to think I would only make something I feel a personal connection to.”
There was a time when serial killers ruled the movie theatres. Movies like “Kiss the Girls,” “Se7en” and “Silence of the Lambs” were big hits and law enforcement types like Alex Cross and Clarice Starling were big draws. Now those stories have been moved to the small screen and television shows like “CSI” and “Criminal Minds” track down the kinds of killers their big screen counterparts used to stalk.
“The Calling” is a throwback to the type of 90s thrillers that made Ashley Judd a star and kept audiences on the edge of their seats.
Drawn from the pages of Inger Ash Wolfe’s mystery novels, Susan Sarandon plays pill-popping Detective Hazel Micallef, a world weary small town Canadian cop just a drunken whisper away from unemployment. The sleepy little town of Fort Dundas doesn’t offer up much in the way of major cases until a string of grisly murders—slit throats and organ removals—forces Micallef to dust off her detecting skills and track down a killer with driven by fanatical religious fervor.
First time director Jason Stone ratchets the bleak atmosphere up to Creep Factor Five in this eerie character driven mystery. There’s a little bit of “Fargo” in the mix, with some dark humor—“I just found the guy’s stomach!”—and disquieting imagery, but the real draw is watching the characters navigate through the film’s unsettled but strangely familiar world.
Sarandon is terrific as outwardly tough detective with a self-destructive center, while Sutherland brings his patented gravitas to the role of a priest who knows more than he is willing to let on. They, along with Grace, Burstyn (who isn’t given enough to do) and Gil Bellows as a no nonsense detective, temper the story’s more outrageous holistic killer Catholic elements.
“The Calling” could have snapped up the pacing a bit, but the slower tempo gives us more time to sit back and enjoy the performances.