31 Days of Halloween — Day 28: Don’t Hang Up (2016) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - Don't Hang Up (2016)

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

It’s not unusual for a horror movie to have unlikable characters; I didn’t particularly care for the leads in either Welcome to the Jungle or Shredder, and felt that at least a few of those who suffered a grisly fate in these two films got what they deserved.

Well, after the opening scene of 2016’s Don’t Hang Up, in which some college-aged buddies pull a prank on a poor, unsuspecting housewife (played by Sienna Guillory), I can honestly say that I’ve never disliked a group of main characters as much as I did the idiots in this film, and right off the bat I was hoping none of them would make it out of the movie alive.

Best friends Sam (Gregg Sulkin) and Brady (Garrett Clayton) are members of a group that specializes in practical jokes, putting ordinary people in horrific situations (children held hostage, death of a relative, etc.), then posting their victims’ reactions online for the world to see. Their prank show is wildly popular, and Sam and Brady, as well as their partner in crime, Mosley (Jack Brett Anderson), have become minor celebrities as a result.

But Sam is down in the dumps; his relationship with longtime girlfriend Peyton (Bella Dayne) seems to be falling apart. To cheer him up, Brady spends the night at Sam’s house (Sam’s parents are out of town), eating pizza and pranking random people on the telephone. But when one of their pranks goes awry, the two find themselves being stalked by a man known only as Mr. Lee (voiced by Philip Desmeules), who seems to know an awful lot about them. In fact, Mr. Lee is so clever that he’s even managed to track down their nearest and dearest, putting both Peyton and Brady’s parents (Alex Dee and Jane Ryall) in the greatest of danger.

Who is Mr. Lee, and why is he so angry? Before the night is over, Sam and Brady will figure out the answers to both these questions, but doing so may very well cost them their lives.

So, yeah, I hated the main characters in Don’t Hang Up the minute they popped on-screen during the opening credit sequence, and I was anxious to see what terrible fate awaited these douchebags as the movie progressed (their practical jokes weren’t just mean… they were downright illegal, and they should have been locked up for what they’ve done).

Still, the movie does have a few things going for it, including the remarkable cinematography of Nat Hill, who (with a little help from the Special FX department) put together some very cool shots early on. In one, his camera swoops through the keyhole of a front door, flies low over a few knick-knacks on a family room table, then comes to a rest in the kitchen, where Sam is staring at his laptop, contemplating his failing relationship with Peyton. It’s an ingeniously-staged sequence, and the camera continues to move freely throughout the movie, infusing each and every scene with an undeniable energy.

In addition, the two main leads do a decent enough job playing a pair of morons (though Gregg Sulkin’s American accent does slip a bit when his character gets excited). As for the story itself, it’s definitely nerve-racking, and Don’t Hang Up had me poised on the edge of my seat right up until the final act.

Which is exactly when things begin to fall apart, thanks mostly to a series of late plot twists that are as predictable as they come. In fact, I was able to figure out three of the movie’s major twists well before they were revealed (and if I can do it, anyone can).

I don’t usually assign ratings to a movie, but if I were to rate Don’t Hang Up, I’d give it two out of four stars. It’s not the worst horror film I’ve seen this year, but it won’t be making any of my Top 10 lists, either.

—Dr. Shock

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2 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 28: Don’t Hang Up (2016) — by Dr. Shock

  1. Day 28 – Bordello of Blood

    After her troubled brother goes missing, a woman hires a PI to investigate the brother’s last known whereabouts, a funeral home that holds dark secrets, to learn the truth about what happened.

    After admittedly being a little disappointed by the previous Tales from the Crypt movie, 1995’s Demon Knight, I can’t say I had any expectations of anything different with its 1996 follow-up – Bordello of Blood. Although Demon Knight was technically an entertaining film, it lacked anything that made it feel like Tales from the Crypt, other than the intro and outro featuring the Cryptkeeper. With Bordello of Blood though, this felt far closer in tone to the series. Truthfully, the only thing Demon Knight had going for itself over Bordello of Blood was the fact that Demon Knight opened up with the classic Tales from the Crypt opening while Bordello of Blood didn’t. However, considering how inconsistent the intro can be even on the television show DVDs (The intro is missing from seasons 1-2), I suppose it’s possible that it’s just my copy of the movie that was lacking that intro and perhaps the original copy had it. Whether it did or didn’t, it didn’t take away from the fact that Bordello of Blood was a fun little romp.

    Morality is such an important part of any Tales from the Crypt story. Even going back to the original pre-television series movies, Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror, most of the segments ended with an unscrupulous getting their just desserts. In Bordello of Blood, it’s handled a little different. Rather than tell a story of someone with questionable motives finally getting punished by the end of the story, the evil that exists in the movie, a bordello filled with vampires, punishes those who the movie deems immoral throughout the movie. This is a tale where if you’re a good, upstanding member of society, you’re not going to be involved in the horrors that await at the funeral home/brothel. Regardless of your personal views on paying for sex and whether or not that makes you immoral, I do like the fact that morality is at the forefront of the entire story even if the tale isn’t technically about one terrible person building up to their punishment.

    On the flip side, there’s also the play on the lack of morality tied into big religion. In the film, Reverend JC is your stereotypical big money church leader that seems to be far more consumed with making money and making his church glitzier rather than focusing on other things…like God and whatever. These sort of characters are very easy to dislike with JC becoming even less likable once he’s revealed to having connections to the Vampiric bordello. So not only is JC trying to use God and people’s faith to get rich, but he’s also trying to help spread the evilness of Lilith and the rest of the vampires. He’s a real scumbag. However, there is redemption in the character as JC sacrifices himself in order to try and stop Lilith and the vampires. It’s almost as if the name, “JC”, is symbolism or something.

    Dennis Miller as the wisecracking PI, Rafe Guttman, is the star of the film and the one that carries the entire picture on his back. He’s plenty entertaining and although critics didn’t seem to share my opinion, I found him to be mostly funny. Although I don’t feel as if he’s quite as much of a stand out as Billy Zane was in Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood wouldn’t have been the same without Miller. Likewise, without the smut, Bordello of Blood wouldn’t have had the fun factor. The film has zero qualms about being smutty at times and just embracing its b-film glory. There’s plenty of nudity, sexual comments, and just an overall tone that this film isn’t something to be taken seriously, but you should be having fun. I would imagine this would appeal to teenage audiences more than adults for that reason. The special effects are also a highlight.There’s some great kills in the movie and the film doesn’t shy away from showing the blood and the gore. When it comes to 90s horror especially, you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to kill scenes. Not only is it a weird time period for the MPAA’s handling of horror, but the rise of CGI meant some films would prematurely use CGI to enhance scenes, but instead would only ruin such scenes due to CGI looking far too fake then. To me it seemed as if it was all practical effects, much to my delight.

    As far as negatives go, I don’t believe there’s too many. Since it is a b movie, don’t expect for all of the acting to be amazing. Dennis Miller and Chris Sarandon (Rev. JC) were the best actors in the film. Although certainly easy on the eyes, Erika Eleniak (Catherine), fails to leave much of an impact as proud Christian who is just out to find her troubled brother in the world of smut. Apparently there were plans to reveal that Catherine was a former porn star, but such revelations were cut, which is a shame since it would have filled in a few plot holes. Early on after Rafe and Catherine meet, Rafe keeps stating that he knows her from somewhere, but just can’t place it. This goes absolutely nowhere and ultimately feels as if such lines should have just been cut. Had she been revealed as a former porn star, it would have made those likes make sense as would it make her strict stance against anything she deems immoral far more understanding. Such a thing is a little example of how Bordello of Blood is clearly a b movie and didn’t have enough care spent on perfecting the script.

    Overall, Bordello is just a fun popcorn movie that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s a tale of good vs evil with the film not being too predictable particularly with Catherine’s brother disappearing so quickly. The special effects are among the highlights of the film as is the tone fitting in nicely with the Tales from the Crypt television series. Being released just one month after the Tales from the Crypt television series wrapped up its seventh and final season, Bordello of Blood gave fans of the Cryptkeeper one last fun story to watch.

    Rating: 7/10

  2. Day 28: Pumpkinhead (1988)

    I wish I would have watched this film sooner because I really enjoyed Pumpkinhead. I’ve heard people talk about how great Lance Henriksen is in this movie and they were right! His character, Ed Harley, has heart and Henriksen brings an unexpected emotional impact to this film. It’s also commonly cited that under the direction of special effects artist, Stan Winston, this film’s creature and effects look great. That’s true too, but what I found most compelling was the story and lore behind the Pumpkinhead monster. To call on Pumpkinhead you need to find a witch in the woods who gives you instructions to a fantastic pumpkin patch/graveyard where he is buried. I loved watching all of that unfold. Pumpkinhead, like any good monster, is representative of human failings and metaphorically teaches us about ourselves. 8/10

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