• Final Caller (Extreme Entertainment) Movie Review

    Released by: Extreme Entertainment
    Released on: 2020
    Director: Todd Sheets
    Cast: Douglas Epps, Alex Brotherton, Rachel Lagen, Jane Plumberg, Jack McCord, Antwoine Steele
    Year: 2020
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    Final Caller – Movie Review:

    Todd Sheets’ latest micro-budget opus is a bit of a return to his roots in the sense that, where Bonehill Road and Clownado were both pretty large in scale by the standards of DIY SOV pictures, Final Caller is scaled back. In many ways a simpler film, though no less a Sheets production through and through, the self-financed movie was shot on the down low and finished “very carefully” during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Completing a film is no easy task under the best of circumstances, through a pandemic into the mix and it would seem damn near impossible, but Sheets is a trooper and this picture, which he notes was shot on one of the lowest budgets that he’s ever worked with, is a testament to the man’s manic commitment to horror films.

    Roland Bennett (Douglas Epps) makes his living as a late night radio DJ, a ‘shock-jock’ of sorts who hosts a program called ‘On Through The Night,’ which he starts at eleven o’clock, telling his listeners it’s ‘time to kick back, relax and enjoy your journey.’ He courts controversy whenever he sees fit, riling up his audience with insults and provocations and that type of thing. He’s intentionally abrasive and he knows how to work that behavior. This comes at cost, however, as he’s made more enemies than friends. Case in point, the stations engineer, Jason (Alex Brotherton), can’t stand the man, though somewhat puzzlingly producer Jessica (Rachel Lagen) has an affinity for the salty bastard.

    Not so shockingly, his personal life is a bit of a mess. We see this first hand when his wife, Claire (Jane Plumberg), shows up at KDAM to serve him with divorce papers. After this little diversion, Jessie lets loose with the little fact that the boss of all bosses, Bob, is going to be paying particular attention to Roland’s broadcast this fine evening because he’s had some complaints. As you can imagine, the environment in the station is less than pleasant. Soon enough, Roland gets a call from someone calling himself ‘The Outsider’ (Jack McCord), an unstable sounding man with an interest in ancient mysticism who tells him he’s holding a female hostage who he will soon murder. Roland, of course, figures this is just a bullshit artist plying his trade, and hangs up on the loon. This first call is just the beginning, however, because as Roland makes his way through this night’s show, the calls from ‘The Outsider’ keep coming and they get more intense and more convincing – it appears that this maniac is literally murdering people on the air, live on Roland’s show. Roland’s still not completely buying it but the rest of the people in the studio wise up faster than he and call in the cops. Soon enough a cop (Antwoine Steele) arrives on the scene, but will it be enough? It’s clear that ‘The Outsider’ has got ideas of his own and that his murder spree won’t be limited to just what’s happening on the other end of that phone line. After all, every eight years eight people have to die on the eighth day of the eighth month… or so we’re told.

    As you sit down and watch Final Caller, it isn’t hard to figure out where Sheets and company did what they could to bring this in for less a car payment on a mid-sized SUV. Much of the film takes place in a single location, the radio station, which makes total sense. At the same time, we get gore galore, as you’d expect from a Sheet movies, done practically without any noticeable CGI, and then ‘bigger’ elements like a very realistic S.W.A.T. team showing up and jumping out of a van. Not that this would be impossible to pull off or anything, but for a movie made on, reportedly, well under a thousand dollars, it’s pretty amazing what Sheets and his team were able to do. The fact that Sheets is a one-man wrecking crew certainly helped a lot here -he wrote, directed, edited and, of course, handled some of effects for the film (with a full team handling the rest) – but still… these guys seem to have achieved the impossible when you figure that there are out of print Criterion Blu-ray’s that sell on eBay for more than this movie cost to make. And honestly, that’s inspiring. And it SHOULD be inspiring. No one’s going to confuse this with the latest Blumhouse production but there’s an admirable amount of gloss and gore to appreciate here. The effects are just as ‘organ-meat-heavy’ as Sheets’ legacy would lead you to expect (and a few of the murder set pieces are seriously creative, so bonus points for that) and the camerawork is genuinely slick. The picture, shot digitally, is edited tight, and scored well and it’s hard to imagine anyone with an appreciation for low budget SOV titles taking issue with the production values here. Sheets continues to evolve as a filmmaker, and Final Caller is proof of that.

    Oh, and keep an eye out for a well-placed Wild Eye Entertainment t-shirt that appears in the movie, in addition to a more obvious Dreaming Purple Neon shirt. And if that weren’t enough, pay attention to the posters in the background in the studio.

    As to the performances? Sheets is working with some regulars here, so a lot of the faces are going to look familiar to those familiar with his filmography, particularly his efforts from the last five years or so. Douglas Epps is pretty great as the lead, chewing just the right amount of scenery to work and definitely playing up his character’s asshole-ish tendencies. He’s got a bit of a Howard Stern thing going on but also brings in some angrier, weirder fringe culture elements to create an interesting character, someone we want to know more about even if we don’t necessarily like him. Alex Brotherton and Rachel Lagen are both pretty solid as the studio support staff, and Jane Plumberg does well as our lead’s soon to be ex-wife. Jack McCord is pretty great as the killer, and he winds up making an interesting foil of sorts for Epps’ character. Dilynn Fawn Harvey also has an amusing part as the station’s security guard and Antwoine Steele is plenty entertaining to watch as the cop. Everyone on camera giver 110%, and while they play things broad rather than subtle, it all works out just fine in the context of the movie.

    Final Caller – The Final Word:

    Final Caller works really well, it’s an inventive and impressive micro-budget picture with some strong effects work, fun performances and unexpected twists. It’s wildly entertaining and definitely worth seeking out – recommended!