When Death calls, Judge David Johnson hides in his basement.
Will you answer?
If you're desperate enough, you might.
This is about as low-budget as you can get, an economy horror experience featuring a recognizable face here and there (e.g. B-movie starlets Suzi Lorraine and Tina Krause), and the simple desire to make you think "Geez, perhaps I didn't just flush 90 minutes of my life down the toilet."
When Death Calls is an anthology film, featuring a series of horror shorts strung together by the theme of a sultry radio host asking for scary stories on Halloween. How this is supposed to goose the Arbitron ratings? I have no clue, but we need something to tie these otherwise disconnected stories together.
Writer/director Jim Haggerty makes the most of his miniscule budget, by including a variety of genre tales. We get supernatural horror, straight-forward psycho stuff, and a crazy slice of WTF to wrap things up.
The stories are hit-and-miss, but the quality of the surprises are…well, surprising. Even during the so-so tellings, Haggerty drops in a nifty twist to rescue the goings-on. I'm thinking specifically of the "mysterious sound from the basement" installment, which ends in a satisfying display of low-fi practical effects.
The centerpiece story is the finale, which blends in the meta-narrative featuring DJ Roxy Richards (Lorraine). It's the most ambitious of the lot and the most out-there, but like the blueprints that preceded it, ends on a high point.
That's all I'll say about the film, as the twists and turns essentially dictate how much enjoyment you'll siphon from When Death Calls. It certainly won't be the acting, the high-quality bloodshed, or even the nudity of which there is plenty. (Yeah, maybe some of these folks should have exercised a bit more prudence.)
Which leads me to the elephant in the room: All of what goes on here has to be graded on a steep curve. The modest accolades I've thrown the way of When Death Calls need to be weighed against the fact that this is ultra-ultra-ultra low budget. Jim Haggerty has a deft touch and there is some genuine fun to be had, but…the bar has been set pretty low. Judged against that metric, the film succeeds. It's just sporting a strong handicap.
The DVD: standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 2.0 Stereo, interviews with Suzi Lorraine and co-star Nathalie Bryant, a photo shoot, bloopers, and an image gallery.
Not Guilty. Just remember: steep curve here, kids.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
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