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  Don't Hang Up I'm Glad You Think It's Funny
Year: 2016
Director: Damien Macé, Alexis Wajsbrot
Stars: Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne, Sienna Guillory, Edward Killingback, Jack Brett Anderson, Robert Goodman, Michael Bodie, Philip Desmeules, Parker Sawyers, Alex Dee, Jane Ryall, Connie Wilkins, Chris Wilson, Chantal Eder
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the dead of night. A woman sleeping alone in her bed is awoken by the telephone, and answers it only to be told this is the police ringing because there is a very serious situation occurring in her house. She does not have time to see about her child, she can only barricade herself in her room with a chest of drawers across the doorway and wait for the cops to sort out what may be a deranged killer on the premises. She is terrified, but the need to look after her offspring is too strong, and - oh, it's all right, it was all a joke. Five young men in the neighbourhood like to spend their spare time pranking people and putting the results online, it's their gimmick for getting appreciation on social media. What could possibly go wrong?

As Don't Hang Up was a horror movie, well, what do you think? Messing with the wrong guy, perhaps, someone who doesn't have a sense of humour about these japes? If you had seen the opening ten minutes of Wes Craven's Scream, the movie that brought the slasher back to the mainstream and had it scrutinised like never before, then you would have the measure of this, for it was essentially an homage to that, the most intense part of the film, and therefore a minor classic of late twentieth century shocker making. You could argue that nothing Craven and his writer Kevin Williamson concocted after that quite matched it, but it set the scene for the much maligned torture porn genre and made the slasher, if not respectable, then viable again.

This was not a long movie, barely lasting an hour and a quarter before some lengthy credits began, but sometimes short and snappy is all a horror needs, and co-directors Damien Macé and Alexis Wajsbrot, here making their feature debut, evidently intended it as a showreel to demonstrate what they were capable of. As they had established themselves in the CGI effects arena, there were plenty of show off shots as their camera swooped along streets, through keyholes and around rooms, all crafting what did not have access to a huge budget into something fairly slick and glossy, and more accomplished than perhaps it had a right to be in this line of not particularly achieving anything original as far as the plot went.

It was almost a two-hander for most of it, unless you counted the interaction between two of the pranksters and the mysterious Mister Lee a three-hander (I mean, how many hands do you need?). Those two were Sam Fuller (Gregg Sulkin) - curiously named after the cult movie director - and Brady Mannion (Garrett Clayton), kicking off the story in full on entitled, vapid and obnoxious mode, underlining the moral bankruptcy of the sort of person who torments innocent people with fake phone calls for "fun". I'm not exaggerating the heinousness of their crimes, for the film was encouraging us to regard them as these lowlifes, all the better to satisfy the less tolerant in the audience who wish to see them receive their comeuppance, which arrived with far more grimness than you would think they deserved.

Only, their pranks have consequences, and that's not something they have weighed up, as the big reveal come the climax informs us. What you had here was a cautionary tale, essentially an update of William Castle's nineteen-sixties thriller I Saw What You Did, only taking the early days of when the internet was being noticed by the movies and applying that paranoia to later times. Remember all those suspense pieces where the hero were sent a link to a website where some hapless soul was being victimised and potentially murdered and they felt powerless to stop them unless they could win the race against time and track both killer and prey down? Don't Hang Up plunged you right back into that territory once again, maybe not after enough time had passed to place a postmodern angle on it. What it did excoriate was the culture of substituting adulation on social media for a personality in the real world, practically wagging its finger at the audience for their addiction to the "like" button. Reasonable as these things went, but they could have learned more from those nineties slashers they respected so much: this was more post-millennial. Music by Aleksi Aubry-Carlson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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