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.