Reel Critics: 'Call' lost at the end

Halle Berry plays a 911 operator in "The Call," a surprisingly tense, effective thriller.

Pretty teenage Casey (Abigail Breslin, no longer "Little Miss Sunshine") is abducted by a stranger in a parking structure. Locked in a car trunk, she manages to dial for help and reaches Jordan (Berry). Still haunted by a previous call that ended badly under similar circumstances, Jordan is determined that this girl be found alive.

Breslin and Berry are nervy and convincing, and as the plot intensifies, so does our anxiety. Briskly paced, "The Call" is as scary as "The Silence of the Lambs" except for the final few minutes. Berry gets to save the day but not before she strips down to a tank top. Dumb and dumber.


An eerie 'Silence'

Two men out for a drive in the German countryside pass a girl riding her bike. Slowly, the car backs up and follows her through a wheat field, and we are filled with dread.

Twenty-three years after that poor girl was found raped and murdered, another girl goes missing under eerily similar circumstances. We think we know the culprit (Ulrich Thomsen), but it is "The Silence" of the second man (Wotan Wilke Möhring) who was in the car the day of that first abduction that makes this film so compelling.

This is a haunting, well-acted mystery and study of grief, guilt and the smiling evils that lurk among us.


'Stoker' worthy of Bram

In "Stoker," Mia Wasikowska ("Alice in Wonderland") is a brooding teenager named India Stoker, whose doting father dies suddenly on her 18th birthday. She wanders about her family's sumptuous estate, recoiling from her mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), who was lonely for attention even before her husband's untimely demise.

At the funeral, India is intrigued yet suspicious of a handsome stranger who shows up as her Uncle Charles (Matthew Goode). No one had ever heard of him before, but Evelyn welcomes him into her home and would likely welcome him into her bed as well.

The Stokers are every bit as creepy as the Addams Family, but with definitely more violent, twisted natures as unnerving as their perfectly placid faces.

Renowned director Chan-wook Park, in his first English language film, gives "Stoker" a '60s retro vibe, so I was startled to learn it's set in present-day Connecticut. The story doesn't always make sense, but Wasikowska is oddly compelling in this lurid, gothic tale.

John Depko is off this week.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World