This telephone horror movie, set in an unspecified American suburb around 1987, is not to be confused with the Korean horror movie of the same name that also appeared that year (and crucially relies on a landline call). A fairly shoddy array of familiar stereotypes, full of broken links and irritating static, is this confection. The greatest asset is that it features another appearance by horror movie matriarch Lin Shaye that is playful and capable of everything.
In a number of scary movies such as the Insidious franchise and lesser-known films such as the tantalizingly titled Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves, Shaye has played creepy ladies. Here is Edith Cranston, a former teacher who, after being blamed for the death of one of her pupils, has been a raging mess (though she was never convicted of murder). Yet a gaggle of teens, including Tonya (Erin Sanders), the older sister of the murdered boy, have been insisting for years on mocking, teasing, pranking and bullying Edith. When Tonya and Chris (Chester Rushing), the new boy in town, along with brothers Brett (Sloane Morgan Siegel) and Zack (Mike Manning), finally drive Cranston too far, she kills herself.
But her husband Edward (Tobin Bell) calls the seniors back to the house with a strange proposition: if they make a phone call to an old princess phone supposedly built in the grave of Edith, and stay on the line for just one minute, they will each receive a substantial inheritance. As teenagers in an American horror movie, the kids are too dumb and selfish to know that this is a terrible thing. Traumatic flashbacks, gymnastic skills of mutilated corpses, and blood-spattered zombie apparitions soon follow. A subtextual understanding may be made of the fact that today’s young people, who have grown up with mobile phones, are so unaccustomed to landlines that they see these once ubiquitous household devices as nothing more than a way of transmitting evil.