Clementine (Susan Priver) works on a psychic chatline, only unlike the usual people on the end of the phone, she has a genuine gift. When she ‘sees’ a caller kill a woman she becomes distraught that she can’t help the victims and obsessed with unmasking the murderer.
Night Caller is an impressive melting pot of several iconic examples of the genre - take a pinch of Maniac, add a soupçon of Psycho, mix in a dollop of The Eyes of Laura Mars, and stir with a hint of Ed Gein (which is even more apt when you realise which character Steve Railsback plays!). It arguably works because of these blatant influences, leaving a homage to the style of film that would have run for a while on 42nd Street.
Clementine’s father (Robert Miano), practically bedridden following a stroke, is a film-loving character whose walls are adorned with horror posters and is surrounded by Betamax videotapes and DVDs, and is a former cop who has a gift himself. Susan Priver is fabulous as the lead, a part that would have been played by the likes of Lin Shaye. It’s a refreshing change of pace to have the protagonist being an older female, and it works perfectly. The killer’s raspy voice is straight out of a ‘70s cop drama, as is the score, but they add to the fun if you’re in on the reference. If there’s a wink link, it’s Bai Ling as Clementine’s boss, whose hysterics are somewhat over the top.
Night Caller revels in its lurid, grindhouse feel and could certainly gain a cult following with fans of that fare (fortunately writer/director Chad Ferrin shows he has grown with much more class and ability since Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!, and hasn’t covered the film in fake scratches and grain to imitate the period - the movie does that well enough with the tone and content). The violence and gore (actually quite well-executed) border on Giallo a Venezia levels at times, so mainstream horror fans will also have a field day with the action.Night Caller is available to stream in the US.