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Review: Final Caller (2020)

Werewolves, zombies, demons and vampires, Todd Sheets (Clownado, Moonchild) has made a film covering just about every kind of monster out there. But I don’t think I’ve seen an actual slasher film by him. Until his latest film, Final Caller, that is. It’s a mix of everything from Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio to Feedback to New Year’s Evil and Don’t Answer the Phone. With the gore cranked all the way up.

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Roland Bennett (Douglas Epps, Clownado, Bonehill Road) is a late night shock jock who specializes in the supernatural. And he’s as big an asshole off the air as on. And he’s not having a good night. His soon-to-be ex-wife Claire (Jane Plumberg, Dreaming Purple Neon) tracks him down at the station to deliver the divorce papers he’s been avoiding. His producer Jessica (Rachel Lagen, Crave: Roots of Evil) tells him that, due to listener complaints, the station’s owner will be listening in tonight. And then he gets a call from The Outsider (Jack McCord, Hi-Death).

This cheerful individual claims he’s about to kill a woman live on the phone. The first of eight sacrifices he must make as part of an ancient ritual. Roland thinks it’s a prank. He’s wrong. And he’ll find out how wrong when The Outsider shows up at the station. And that is far from the only unpleasant surprise he’s going to get tonight.

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Shot just before the COVID lockdown with a small cast on an incredibly low budget, Final Caller is a throwback to Sheets’ original SOV films. This means loads of extreme violence, but with an actual plot and characters to set them apart from the more typical gore film. And the blood starts flowing very early here, with a shot of a bound woman’s hand and a power tool.

And that segues into my one complaint, more of a personal preference actually, with the film. I’m not a big fan of long sequences of random bound victims being tortured. There’s not much suspense or scares to them. The first part of Final Caller was a bit heavy on that for me. But once The Outsider turns up at the studio, the film takes a turn into more traditional slasher style kills.

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And that’s where the film shines for me. The characters stalking each other through the empty offices as the plot takes a couple of very unexpected turns. Maybe not the most realistic of turns, but I don’t think that was anyone’s top priority here. They are loads of fun and keep the plot moving further into madness, which should be the priority of a film like Final Caller.

A few faces that will be familiar to Sheets fans are on hand to round out the cast, and potentially, the body count. Dilynn Fawn Harvey (Natasha Nighty’s Boudoir of Blood, Xenophobia) is the station’s security guard. Antwoine Steele (Sleepless Nights, Whispers in the Gloom) shows up as a cop sent to investigate the calls. And Alexander Brotherton (Losing It at the Devil’s Whorehouse) is Jason, Roland’s sound man.

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For what was such a low budget shoot, Final Caller looks great and gets a lot of production value on the screen. I expected plenty of effects, but I certainly wasn’t expecting Sheets to deliver a visit from the SWAT team. It also benefits from Douglas Epps and Jack McCord as adversaries who are more alike than different. Both give performances that match the material. Especially McCord’s rants. They sound like something from an incel Facebook group and fit his character perfectly.

If you’re looking for a film with a couple of locations, a couple of twists you won’t see coming and plenty of gore, Final Caller should do the trick. At the moment release plans aren’t firm but the idea is to do a couple of limited editions prior to a full release. You can check the film’s Facebook page for announcements.

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