The Calling is a small town psychological crime drama. Hard-nosed but physically downtrodden Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) is head of the police force in Fort Dundas, Ontario when she stumbles upon a gruesome series of murders during a routine call to check in on an elderly lady in town. Soon Hazel, together with her friend on the force, Detective Ray Green (Gil Bellows), and rookie cop Ben Wingate (Topher Grace) form an investigative team to find the connection between the victims, whose only common denominator is their terminal illness, and figure out the identity and intentions of their serial killer currently on a cross-Canada tour.
The Calling has all the trappings of a Canadian indie, from the nondescript streets and houses that make up its setting, to the largely docile mannerisms of the characters, with the exception of the Hollywood heavyweights portraying these roles. Hazel is a complex character. Beneath her drinking tendencies and brusque demeanour is a woman suffering constantly from physical pain, who also has to run an under-staffed police department while juggling some pretty complicated personal relationships. This is not beyond the breadth of Susan Sarandon’s talent, but nonetheless commendable to be able to bring this nuanced character to life. Ellen Burstyn and Donald Sutherland’s talents are used much more sparingly in their supporting roles, both had limited screen time and character development. More was told to the audience about Sutherland’s Father Price than was ever shown.
The story itself suffers similar pitfalls, intricate and deliberate in certain scenes, rushed over and narrated through a single character’s explanation to cover details in others. Editing may have saved this film from grossly uneven pacing, but it leaves audience wanting more from what is initially an intriguing mystery. The religious motivations of the serial killer and the gruesome beauty of the murders harkens associations to thrillers such as Seven. The Calling is also based on a novel.
Despite shortfalls, The Calling finds a way to remain engaging throughout, largely from Sarandon’s performance, and timely plot points will keep your interest piqued. The climax wasn’t jaw dropping nor all that unpredictable, but the final scene and open-ended final shot leave a ripple of excitement reverberating through you to make the whole experience worthwhile.