Hang Up

Seldom has a film taken so much trouble to set us up for a horrendous pay-off in blood and gore, and then, apparently, just forgotten what kind of film it was supposed to be. In the opening scene, we see a stout, grizzled homicide detective arrive at a crime scene where he is so sickened by what he sees that he can’t enter the room of the carnage. Then we see the police grunts hauling out the victims in bags, some of them rather small. But we in the audience never see so much as a drop of blood.

So it goes. Simon West directs this sterile exercise with all the trappings of the Nightmare on Elm Street/Halloween/Friday 13 bimbo-babysitters-in-peril genre—without, get this, any torn flesh or gaping, gushing wounds. A cat jumps, a bird flutters, the phone rings, a door opens—and the soundtrack decibels jump exponentially. There’s atmospheric rain, an isolated mansion stuffed with technological safeguards that aren’t worth a damn, and an entire style manual’s worth of forebodings and foreshadowings. But when we finally are shown a dead body, it is just a dead body, unmarked and in one piece, with no sign of violence and no expression of horror or agony on her features. The next dead body is at the bottom of an indoor fishpond, but similarly intact and unbloody—almost peaceful.

Mostly, we get the incredibly insipid Camilla Belle wandering around the vast house, while her high school chums play phone pranks on her and the killer gradually tightens the electronic noose around her. Camilla comes “highly recommended” as a baby sitter, but she doesn’t even make visual contact with her charges until three hours after she has arrived at the job, and only then because the homicidal maniac calls to suggest she check on them.

This is a stupid, irritating movie—weird without being interesting—but I was almost grateful to West for sparing us the carnage.

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