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Those Who Call (2021) Review

Those Who Call opens somewhere outside of Whispering Pines, TX, Population 53. Lauren (Reese Fast, The King of Bastrop, Applewood) loses her cell reception and a tire within minutes of each other. We know it’s going to happen because she was just saying how much she prefers driving to taking a plane. Trying to find help, she stumbles across what looks like a cult performing a human sacrifice. Unfortunately, they see her as well.

Elsewhere, sisters Sandra (Yetlanezi Rodriguez, Wolves, A Life’s Worth) and Ana (Angie Sandoval, Mortal Gods, Before I Leave) are taking a trip together and trying to reconnect after several years apart. Unfortunately, they seem to do more arguing than reconciling. Running low on gas and patience, they stop in the first town they come to, Whispering Pines. Predictably, their stop in town gets them nothing but threats from the gas station’s owner (Kevin Kinkade, 6 Bullets to Hell, Let’s Kill Mom) and his daughter (Addison Cousins, We Can Be Heroes, Tiger Eyes).

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First time writer/director Anubys Lopez starts Those Who Call off like so many other backwoods horror films, so it’s no surprise when they end up lost and out of gas in the middle of a forest whose trees are festooned with creepy figures.

Horror films tend to be dark both figurative and literally, after all, fear thrives in darkness. Those Who Call takes the literal part of it a bit too far and many of the night scenes are so dark that it was hard to tell what, if anything, was going on. Scenes with a flashlight, headlights, etc. are OK though, That makes me think Lopez tried shooting with natural light and found out his mistake too late.

The film’s other problem is more serious, the two leads are annoying as hell. They bicker constantly, mostly over the fact Ana hadn’t been home or even called in three years. She was off running her business while her sister took care of their widowed father.

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At one point, they fall asleep in their car and wake up in the middle of the woods with no idea how they got there. I thought this would be where the film really kicked into gear. Instead, it just sets up more bickering, including a flashback to them arguing before they left on the trip. What made them think that all this time stuck in a car with each other was a good idea?

The film’s title comes from a verse in the bible, Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” which we find out via some extremely clunky exposition. It also sets up the film’s eventual climax. But not until the sisters argue over whether or not a symbol carved in a tree is the same as the one on a ring they found among their father’s possessions. Yes, it goes there.

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I was hoping Those Who Call would be an enjoyable bit of hicksploitation. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a mess. Very little actually happens, and at least half of Those Who Call is simply the two sisters arguing. And when something does happen, half the time we can’t see it because the film is so dark. At least that makes the film’s low body count and lack of effects largely irrelevant. If the arguments had at least been compelling or revealing, Those Who Call could have gotten by as a character study with some genre touches. But it’s just endless, almost instinctive contrarian screaming. “It’s your fault!” “No, it’s yours!”, “Go this way” “No, that way!”, etc.

A poor script coupled with technical issues sinks Those Who Call almost from the start. Anubys Lopez already has a second film, Aged, completed. Hopefully, he learned from the mistakes he made here.

Uncork’d Entertainment will release Those Who Call to Digital platforms on January 10th. If you want something similar, but hopefully better, FilmTagger can suggest a few titles.

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