When I was reviewing the list there was a certain point where I got genuinely excited about the films that were left. Entries 3-8 were a logjam of quality films that it is nearly impossible to order without regret.
Being a horror fan is like using a metal detector to find pirate gold on the beach. You always hope to find a hidden gem, so you sort through direct to video products, dozens of found footage films, foreign films, independent films, anything really. In the end, you’re hoping to find a movie like this, and finding it is completely worth it, an impeccably-paced, scary, intriguing film, with not a bad performance in the whole lot.
Michelle Ang is Mia, a graduate student who is filming her thesis (with the aid of a substantial grant) on Alzheimer’s disease. Her reluctant subject is Deborah Logan (an inspired Jill Larson) a retired switchboard operator, who agrees to the film with the prodding of her daughter Sarah (Ann Ramsay) as her home is about to be foreclosed on, and the grant money will save it.
I have to derail my review here, to mention Jill Larson. I don’t watch soap operas and apparently she was on one for a couple of decades. But sometimes there’s a veteran actor, not a particularly noticeable one, like an Alan Ford for instance. And then the right role comes around and they finally get to do something, and when you see what they can do, you wonder why no one gave them a shot before now. That’s Jill Larson. She dominates the screen in a performance that requires a LOT.
Deborah is an intelligent, complex, and independent woman who is slowly deteriorating because of her condition. But as Mia and her film crew observe the sparks between Deborah, Sarah and their secretive neighbor Harris, they start to realize that something happened, something terrible, and that no matter how hard you want to keep a secret, you can’t when your mind starts to slip.
Deborah starts to have violent seizures and behavior that no one can explain. But when they find her upstairs in the attic on the old switchboard machine speaking French (a language she never learned) they start to realize that something else is going on.
Even though the switchboard is dead, there is a line that won’t stop ringing. Even though Deborah kept notes on everything, she has torn out all the entries on line 337. But Harris knows something. And whatever happened all those years ago is not over yet.
I wanted to review this without ruining it, although the most shocking scene has been screen-capped out of context all over the Internet. I think its a testimony to how jarring that scene was. But there’s a lot to recommend this film. Ann Ramsay is the Ginger Rogers to Larson’s Astaire, and her character demonstrates a consistent bravery and surprising depth. There are good jump scares here and a smart plot.
This is a really good film, and a can’t miss for a horror fan.