‘Call’: Park Shin-hye and Jun Jong-seo’s time travel slasher thriller reels you in with engaging premise

When ‘Call’, the Korean movie starring Park Shin-hye and Jun Jong-seo’s trailer had released, many had compared the film to the popular K-Drama ‘Signal’. Of course, we see how that is possible, considering a woman from the past and the present get connected by a call. However, ‘Call’ is beyond this time travel element and that is what makes the film as good as it is. From the first moment in, the opening grainy shot of a woman walking alone in the countryside, we are reeled in bit by bit. The film gives audiences time to settle in the kind of mood that our lead Seo-yeon (Shin-hye) is in before introducing us to Yeong-sook (Jeong-seo). 

We see how Seo-yeon has harbored hatred for her mother because she believed that her mother was the reason why her father had to die. It was her mother’s carelessness in not switching the stove off that had led to the fire accident that had left Seo-yeon with physical and mental scars while leading to her father’s death. Now, her mother is also terminally ill and seeking treatment a hospital awaiting her death. However, her daughter doesn’t seem all too concerned because she is at the moment blinded by hatred. So when she arrives at her hometown after a long time she is left to her own devices. 

So when she gets a call from a woman who asks for a Ms. Sun-hee and begs to be saved from her mother who is dead set on murdering her daughter, Seo-yeon is intrigued. Then she figures out that there is a hidden room in her house and when she breaks the wall in, she in a way opens herself up to be contacted by the past and this is how a series of horrific incidents begin to occur. For Seo-yeon, she is led by being thankful to this girl in the past who managed to save her father after hearing Seo-yeon’s story. However, the bond that the two women develop over many calls comes to a shocking halt when Seo-yeong realizes that Yeong-sook was killed by her stepmother who demonized her step daughter’s mental illness and believed that she was possessed. The shaman had tried many things to “cure” Yeong-sook, however, when nothing worked and she also ended up seeing a vision of how her stepdaughter would lead to many deaths, she decides that killing this one woman for the lives of many would be better. 

However, considering the awareness that has been raised around mental illness in the present, Seo-yeon believes that her friend from 20 years in the past was ill-treated by her family and so, on a fateful day that Yeong-sook was to die, she is warned. However, every choice and action has a consequence and by making this choice, Seo-yeon just entered a snare of a bloodthirsty greyhound. Only after Yeong-sook kills two people, one of whom was innocent that Seo-yeon understands the gravity of the situation that she is in. 

She finds her world change drastically every time and the weight of this change is reflected in the visual effects. From her house being eaten up by fire, the walls shattering and breaking apart into pieces, or her car splintering away into nothingness. All of this is to indicate how very different her life is going to be moving on from that moment. Once Seo-yeon realizes how Yeong-sook is a dangerous individual with violent tendencies as a result of her mental illness that includes Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder, she tries to trap Yeong-sook within her snare and it is brilliant that she fails. Cinematically speaking, this very scene is a trap in itself where one would hope that Yeong-sook falls for the trap because the outcome otherwise is too horrific to swallow. However, had that happened, the entire scene would have boiled down to being underwhelming. So just when we are momentarily flustered, as it seems like Seo-yeon might have just won, the surprise is sprung and the action begins all over again. 

This is the kind of people that does slow-burn brilliantly while leaving you with palpitations and even the ending leaves us wanting to know more about how Seo-yeon dealt with her life after living through an otherworldly experience such as this. The slasher part of this film comes from the fact that Yeong-sook is a serial killer. From her first kill, who happens to be her mother, to the very last attempt — who happens to be Seo-yeon and her mother in past and present at the same moment — all of it is gory, bloody and even extremely objectionable. So all the elements of the film come together brilliantly to give us a terrific couple of hours!

‘Call’ can be streamed on Netflix from November 27. 

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