Directed by Alexis Wajsbrot & Damien Mace
Written by Joe Johnson
Starring Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne, Jack Brett Anderson and Parker Sawyers
Featuring Sienna Guillory
Youtube prank videos are a very common occurrence in this day and age. Even yours truly, aspiring author and demonic possessee has fallen prey to the whims of jokesters who startle, harass or just plain act like morons all in the name of subscriber counts and viewers. Yet, what happens when someone doesn’t find it quite as funny? What if, against all your best intentions, said prank creates a chain reaction that leads to pain and misery?
Don’t Hang Up explores these questions in a decent, bite sized little shocker riding on the rails of films like Unfriended, #Horror and the forthcoming Friend Request in this new, millenial approved wave of social media horror. Full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of this trend (although I did enjoy Unfriended) and thankfully this film keeps this aspect to a minimum, with only the first act focusing on the youtube antics. The first half in general is a bit of a mess. The prologue, while initially tense, becomes very predictable once you recall the very premise of the film. The pair of protagonists are unlikable, rather pig headed and (for lack of better vernacular) “bro-tastic”. It’s all I could take to keep the film going to survive these boorish fools.
But stick it out, because the film picks up. It’s a very brief jaunt as far as feature standards are at about 73 minutes, less end credits. Therefore, it rather HAS to move quickly and the foreboding phone call comes in at about 15 minutes in. From here on out, the film shifts gears dramatically moving from a Jackass style comedy and lurching into full blooded horror. The end result is something of an off kilter hybrid of Saw, Phone Booth and Joy Ride. It ratchets up the tension, even on a aesthetic basis as the sunny suburb setting eventually gives way to the dark of night and then further into a raging thunderstorm.
Our villain, Mr. Lee, is suitably creepy with his expressionless mask and Jigsaw-esque machinations. The film moves away from PG13 teen friendly territory with graphic violence and light torture elements that actually caught me off guard (as I was expecting precisely what the premise lead me to; a PG13 style thriller with copious boo scares and not much else). The gore was a nice surprise and the increasing tension pays off with a solid, stark ending.
Kudos for the directors for crafting something solid out of having little to work with. Don’t Hang Up is not a film that’s going to set the horror world on fire. It is a bit shallow and there’s not much too it outside of the main premise and the increasing violence. It starts off unlikable and predictable and yes, the end twist was a bit expected too.
Go into it, however, expecting to be entertained for a bit more than an hour and you’ll find a not-bad under-the-radar thriller. It’s well filmed, rather tense and a good effort all around.
3/5 Unexpected Pizzas
Splatter Factor: 3/5 ***Unexpectedly violent. Once Mr. Lee starts his games, he really gets into it. His signature kill technique is plastic bag suffocation, while not gory is still unsettling. There’s also slit throats that really gush, various cuts and scrapes, a grisly murder aftermath and somewhat graphic gunshots. Decent red!***
The Collective Speaks: Do you hear the phone ringing? Do you? Answer it, dammit. It’s rude not to. Now Don’t Hang Up, unless it’s Samara Morgan calling (you’ll need every second of those seven days). When jokes are taken too far we will support whatever wrath befalls the perpetrators. After all, what kind of infernal entity would we be should we not support the Seven Deadly? Mr. Lee is a prime candidate for assimilation and while we expect his actions will mostly go unheeded, we applaud them nonetheless.