When an elderly woman is murdered in a small Canadian town, Detective Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) is dragged into a case that has links to others across the country, and may not be as simple as she first thought.
The Calling is based on the novel of the same name by Inger Ash Wolfe, and places several murders in the lap of the alcoholic, jaded police chief of a small town. The idea is one that we have seen on screen many times before, so the question arises; what makes The Calling different?
Susan Sarandon takes on the role of the jaded cop; a woman who has seen and suffered too much to allow violent deaths to affect her. That said Hazel is intrigued by the grisly nature of the deaths, and doggedly chases down any lead she can find. Sarandon has proven, many times before, that she is more than able to play a woman with demons, so she ably carries the film here. Topher Grace is given very little character to work with as rookie cop Ben Wingate, Donald Sutherlands brings some gravitas as Father Price and Christopher Heyerdahl dials up the creepy as Simon.
The story, adapted for the screen by Scott Abramovitch borders on the silly at times; spurred on by an ancient religious ceremony, a killer travels across Canada, seeking out those who search for redemption. This leads to some interesting clues and gives the killer a handy signature, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense when compared to the rest of the film. The rest of the film is formulaic, with the audience expecting Sarandon to announce that she is a week from retirement at any second. The film tries to make a comment on modern-day Christianity, but since it doesn’t seem sure what the comment is, it fails miserably.
The direction, by Jason Stone – Yes, he who brought us the short film that inspired This Is The End – is frankly, a bit of a mess. Several times, the film reaches a point where it could happily have ended, but gasps another breath and staggers on. As well as this, while Sarandon does her best to keep the film afloat, it is so laden with unnecessary twists, and paper thin characters, that it is hard for it to be anything other than formulaic.
The Calling is a film that tries too hard to shakes off the shackles of formula, that it falls right into this trap. Sarandon does what she can to keep the film afloat, but she is fighting a losing battle against thin characters and a preposterous story. Shame, The Calling could have been great under a more steady hand.