“The Calling,” opening in select cities today as well as on VOD services, offers more than yet another swipe at organized religion. It refuses cartoonish portraits in favor of an original spin on the serial killer genre.
What’s missing is the sense of danger, the fear that our flawed heroes face a crisis bigger than their combined gifts.
Susan Sarandon is Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef, a British Columbia cop who numbs her back pain with any over-the-bar remedy she can find. Clad in the “Fargo” fall collection, she discovers a dead neighbor with her neck slashed. Suddenly she’ll need all of her skills as she connects the woman’s murder with similar slayingsg.
The clues point to a religious fanatic, someone following an ancient ritual that puts several more innocents in danger.
Sarandon’s detective, teamed with a transfer cop (Topher Grace) and an ambivalent co-worker (Gil Bellows), must put some pretty vague clues together to prevent more murders.
Sarandon portrays a woman battling chronic pain without a hint of any actorly gimmicks. Her detective’s motives aren’t always clear, especially during a critical scene with a fellow cop’s life at stake. Otherwise, she’s a welcome character in a genre addicted to vanilla heroes.
Even better is Christopher Heyerdahl of “Hell on Wheels” fame, cast as a mystic who may offer clues to the killing spree.
DID YOU KNOW: Screenwriter Scott Abramovitch once worked as a bat boy for the Montreal Expos.
Thriller fans will appreciate the craftsmanship on display, but they’ll pine for a sense of mystery. The identity of the killer would be clear to even Shaggy and his favorite mutt. And where’s the fear factor? Even when the detectives get too close to the killer, we rarely fear for their lives.
Strong character work and a sense of fairness give “The Calling” an edge over similar fare. The game cast still can’t send chills down where they properly belong.