Don’t Hang Up (2016)
An evening of drunken prank calls becomes a nightmare for a pair of teenagers when a mysterious stranger turns their own game against them…with deadly consequences.
SLIGHT SPOILER WARNINGS BEYOND THIS POINT
From it’s trailer, Don’t Hang Up appeared to me as if it was going to be a highly produced, frat boy flick, with characters who you actively root against because they are so obnoxious and that it would contain more ‘gotcha’ scares than anything else.
Holy hell did it quickly disprove my initial assumptions.
The movie opens with a scene taken right out of ‘When a Stranger Calls’ as a woman is awoken to a late night call from someone claiming to be the police and telling her to stay in her room. There are two men in the house and they have her daughter held hostage in the basement.
Police have the house surrounded and they just need for her to stay in her bedroom while they take the suspects out. Things quickly escalate to the point that the woman on the phone believes her daughter has just been shot before it is finally revealed that this has just been a prank call and we are introduced to our two main characters on the other line.
Sam and Brady spend an evening making extremely cruel prank calls. They convince people that their wives have just died in a car crash or that they have a daughter who claims the person on the other line got her pregnant. The pair film these calls to upload online and get a kick out of the terrified reactions on the other end.
It isn’t too long before they make a call to a very ominous sounding voice answering on the other line. Don’t Hang Up is definitely heavily inspired by Scream. The monotone voice and the emotionless manner in which the antagonist demands Sam and Brady to obey him or reap the consequences are all very reminiscent of Ghostface.
That inspiration is taken in a whole new direction though and it does not feel forced, campy or overdone. The antagonist in Don’t Hang Up keeps you hanging by a thread with each of his threats and promises. His way with words keeps you feeling as if Sam and Brady are truly in danger the entire time even while still sitting comfortably in Brady’s living room.
The two of them are quickly brought in to a devious game where Brady’s parents, Sam’s girlfriend and one of their mutual friends become pawns in a Saw style choose your own adventure murder mystery. It is apparent pretty early on that whoever the guy on the other line is, he had been affected by the pairs previous prank calls in some way and throughout the night more details are revealed until the big finale.
What I appreciated most about Don’t Hang Up is that when given the predictable scenario of turning Sam and Brady against each other in order to save their own lives the two of them come through with very real life reactions.
I won’t spoil too much but I just felt as if these two characters were given a lot of terrific development and inner conflict that was used efficiently and allowed us to gain an understanding of the choices that were being made.
They had a lot more depth than I expected. They were still frat boy types, but instead of being one dimensional and unlikable they were actually given real enough back stories to allow the audience to feel a connection and concern for them.
When given the chance to derail and become a torture porn the movie sticks to it’s premise and does not go for the easy and overdone solution to evoke cringes or gasps. Instead it goes for the long con and it plays off beautifully in the end.
The last act of this movie is awesome. The first two were also great but it certainly keeps up the pace until the very end when all is revealed and the killers face is finally shown. I’d like to say it was his face but honestly I have no idea if the killer was wearing a mask or not, but it looked really cool.
Mr. Lee, as he coins himself, could be up there with Freddy and Michael Myers as far as creepy slashers go and his ultimate plan and execution of the evenings festivities put him in the same category as Jigsaw or dare I say even Hannibal Lecter (heresy I know). The filmmakers paid homage to the greatest horror films of all time but they did so in a manner that did not feel like a greatest hits cover band.
They recreated these classic horror tropes in their own unique way.
As the final moments of the movie play out, things get darker and grittier by the second. Don’t Hang Up does not have much in the way of comic relief, it is a twisted movie with what I considered to be a perfect ending. Some of you may be able to predict the final payoff, it’s not the most unique concept out there, but it still played really well in my head.
My final thoughts are simply to watch this movie, it wasn’t just good, it was freaking awesome.