As I’ve sometimes mentioned, I often end up reviewing films for the most unusual reasons. In the case of Crisis Hotline, writer/director Mark Schwab reached out to me after seeing my review of Fear Pharm. The connection? That film’s director, Dante Yore, was the cinematographer for Crisis Hotline. Frequent readers may also have seen his camera work in Battle Star Wars and Apparition. Obviously, I said yes, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this and I’d be talking to myself.
Simon (Corey Jackson, The Mentor) is a counsellor at a Silicon Valley LGBTQ crisis hotline and after a week he’s already getting tired of dealing with calls about the difficulty of finding a partner or how badly the caller’s job sucks. As the film opens he tells co-worker Julia (Laura Altair, The Waiting ) “it sure as hell isn’t a crisis.”
That’s about to change. He gets a call from Danny (Christian Gabriel) a programmer who is most definitely in crisis. So much so he’s about to kill himself and three other people, his boyfriend Kyle (Pano Tsaklas) and his boyfriend’s employers Lance (August Browning) and Christian (Christopher Fung, Ghostbox Cowboy, WTF!). As Simon keeps him on the line and talking we learn just what brought him to this point.
As you can probably tell Crisis Center is not a high action thriller. Most of it takes place in the room Simon occupies. The plot is carried by conversation with the occasional flashback acted out. Which is a long-winded way of saying this is a very slow burn of a film. That does not mean it’s a boring one, however.
I wanted to make a true genre film that still had a social point of view and dealt maturely and honestly with gay male sexuality and how challenging it is to form healthy love relationships in the age of online phone apps.Mark Schwab
Schwab wanted to examine loneliness and the effects apps like Grindr were having on dating and the LGBTQ community. But given the number of people I know using Tinder and Plenty of Fish I suspect the film’s points are just as valid in general society.
And it makes those points nicely in the film’s opening act as shy and inexperienced Danny moves to the big city and, eventually turns to an app to meet somebody. That somebody being Kyle who lives a lavish lifestyle as a web security consultant despite only having one couple as clients. It’s when Danny is introduced to them that things begin to take a darker turn.
Thankfully the dialogue and performances manage to keep things interesting during the build-up. A dialogue-heavy romance could easily turn those brought in by Crisis Hotline’s thriller tag if not done right. The various scenes of Danny and Kyle in bed are fairly tame, but probably intimate enough to make those uncomfortable with a male/male relationship squirm.
Once we do get past that into the actual thriller part of the film the story picks up nicely and things get quite tense. The plot goes into some pretty dark places, and the final revelations are sufficiently grim.
Nicely done on a low budget Crisis Hotline is a solid thriller with a side of cautionary tale. It might however have been better served by keeping its original title Shadows in Mind. The current title conjures up expectations of a film like Brad Anderson’s The Call, which this certainly isn’t. But then this is a High Octane Pictures release, and they aren’t known for accuracy in their publicity campaigns.
Crisis Hotline is available to stream and on DVD. You can check the film’s website and Facebook page for more information.