Horror movies have a long tradition of odious characters getting what’s coming to them – sure, we like to root for our heroes to survive, but we’re equally (if not more) happy to see someone unpleasant suffer at the hands of the bad guys. Such a set-up is at the heart of Don’t Hang Up, a dullfest masquerading as horror which at least allows us the pleasure of seeing two detestable characters getting their just desserts.
Brady (Garrett Clayton), Sam (Gregg Sulkin) and Mosley are cocky teenage boys who like to amuse themselves by making prank phone calls. However, these are no ordinary pranks – they like to go extreme, tormenting their unsuspecting victims with tales of dead relatives or intruders in the house. Their delight at the humiliation is upped only by the likes and attention they receive when they post videos of their hijinks online. After one prank, their victim calmly threatens retaliation. They soon find themselves on the wrong end of a call, and fight to survive as a night intended for pranks becomes increasingly bloody.
Now, I’m not going to give this film a positive review (spoilers), but I want to highlight that it is a decently made one. As a directorial debut, you could do far worse, and some of the camera shots are inspired (the directors worked in visual effects before, and it shows in some shots – a tracking shot through a keyhole that would be impossible otherwise). It’s a competent enough job, but it falls flat in the horror aspects, and that’s all anybody actually came to see (there is one exception – the film’s opening sequence is a genuinely suspenseful one, but it all goes downhill from there).
Part of this is down to the writing of the lead characters. Within a minute of meeting them, we already hate them (and if you find them likeable, that speaks volumes about your character). These are teenagers who ring people in the middle of the night to tell them that their family members are dead, and then they laugh about it – they’re hardly sympathetic heroes.
But yet, the movie keeps trying to force us to care about them, and it doesn’t work. Sam is having relationship trouble with his girlfriend Peyton (actress name). The film wants me to feel sorry for him, but my only thought: ‘I can see why.’ A lot of suspense is generated through empathy, but that doesn’t happen here. Instead, we’re encouraged to feel bad for the boys when one of their victims finally has enough. I’m sorry, but I don’t. The movie is (maybe) aware of this, so it brings Brady’s parents into the firing line – perhaps if they’d raised him not to be a dick, I’d be worried about them instead. Nope.
The film suffers plot-wise as well. The big event – the (arguable) villain, Mr Lee – rings and has the guys cornered within the first ten minutes. Sadly, we’ve another hour to go, and not too much happens. The movie coasts by on a level of tension it never even started to build in the first film, making watching it more of a chore than a fright. You can never properly get into it anyway, because of the sheer amount of disbelief required – Mr Lee has a tech presence greater than the CIA, and it’s just stupidly absurd.
This film has a couple of flaws that it doesn’t recover from, and watching it is not a pleasant experience (unless, like me, you really disliked the main characters). It’s a copy-and-paste job from better, actually scary, horror films, so you may as well just watch them instead. Don’t Hang Up? My advice is not to bother answering in the first place.
Director: Damien Mace, Alexis Wajsbrot
Cast: Sienna Guillory (Mrs Kolbein), Garrett Clayton (Brady Mannion), Gregg Sulkin (Sam Fuller), Bella Dayne (Peyton Grey), Parker Sawyers (Mr Lee)
Running Time: 83 Mins
Image credit: http://www.blu-ray.com/Dont-Hang-Up/692013/