New Horror Releases: Close Calls (2017) - Reviewed

Currently making the festival rounds is the thriller Close Calls, from writer and director Richard Stringham. This erotically charged slow burn psychological thriller deftly blends together Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento, David Lynch, the Italian giallo, Repulsion, Don’t Answer the Phone!, Scream, and an ‘80s synth score into something incredible. This surreal and bizarre thriller is an impressive first time feature from Stringham that boasts an outstanding score, bold visuals, an intense color palette, and a terrific performance from lead actress Jordan Phipps. 

Morgan is a young and troubled teen who has been tasked with watching her crazy grandmother, while her father is out for the night on a date. Things get scary when she starts receiving psychotic prank phone calls, making her question who she can trust. At its core, this is essentially a giallo. Yet, there are so many other little pieces thrown in from various directors, films, and eras that add extra layers to it. The whole film is a mystery, with the viewer waiting to find out what it’s all about. There are several twists and turns and a thoroughly strange ending, but they are all aspects that you’d typically expect to find in a giallo. 

The directing and cinematography are fantastic, with some interesting and unique camerawork and intense colors. The strong colors used in the film recall the works of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, whose striking colors have been used by many filmmakers since then. There were some great camera angles and movement, which made for several interesting and unforgettable scenes when combined with the editing. The score from Rocky Gray was incredible. It featured a piano composure that was reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street, while also containing a synth piano, bass, and other sounds. 

This was a pretty small cast, essentially consisting of five main actors. In her first film appearance, Jordan Phipps killed it as Morgan. She was everything she needed to be and more; she was bratty, sassy, sexy, erotic, scared, and brave. She took on the characteristics of both the “final girl” and the ones that get killed by the slasher. She definitely has Scream Queen potential. Janis Duley portrayed the crazy grandma and did she own the craziness, delivering a totally whacked out and creepy performance. Greg Fallon was delightfully perverse and deadly in his role as Barry Cone, a friend of Morgan’s father. 

There isn’t a great deal of gore or violence, so it’s hard to say if this will appeal to the horror gore hounds. There is some, but it’s minimal and for the story. Aside from the lead actress running around in her underwear for the entire movie, there is a minor bit of nudity. 

This is a wonderfully bizarre and surreal take on the giallo, while also blending other elements into it. Fans of the giallo subgenre or psychological thrillers would be keen to give this one a chance. With its impactful colors and visual style, excellent score, and superb performance from Jordan Phipps, Close Calls is one wild psychological trip. 

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