Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Calling: Mysticism, Maniacs And Assassins With Assisted Suicidal Tendencies

The summer season is not exactly shaping up as a showcase for positive images of the priesthood in movies. On the heels of Irish writer/director John Michael McDonagh's comedic crime thriller Cavalry, in which a mystery avenger is obsessed with gunning down a countryside cleric, The Calling sort of flips the sacramental script. As a felonious religious fanatic, possibly in league with a local Catholic Church parish, seeks out victims for homicidal redemption, don't ask.

Susan Sarandon is Detective Hazel Micallef in The Calling, a rural Canadian down in the dumps detective suddenly up against an elusive serial killer stalking the vicinity. And the rising body count is initially not only seemingly random, but gruesome and bizarre as well. With open mouthed corpses that appear to have died while singing, and dogs dining on one victim's severed human stomach in a frozen field.

Meanwhile, afflicted with a bad back and even worse disposition, Hazel is furiously on the case, even as she alleviates whatever ails her with ample infusions of alcohol and drugs - some of the pills surreptitiously swiped from crime scenes. Soon joining Hazel in the investigation to her dismay, is Ben (Topher Grace), a young, overly enthused big city cop sent on assorted wild goose chases around the country, courtesy of mom's frequent flyer mileage.

In any case, what eventually comes to light is exceedingly murky evidence referencing ancient scriptures, Christian mysticism, toxic tea sipping, tattoo cleansing, terminal illness chatrooms, a highly suspect online link at faithforthedying.com, and one odd combo assisted suicide assassin. Or possibly two. Also on hand to toss in their two cents are Ellen Burstyn as Sarandon's nagging resident matriarch, and Donald Sutherland as a reclusive cleric who ponders in Latin.

The Calling is a somber and suspenseful twisted tale with lots of lapsed Catholicism to say the least, not to mention lapses in logic. But a story that is nicely held together owing to vigorous performances and moody atmosphere. The production is also layered with quite of bit of strange elements of its own. Including The Calling's South African filmmaker Jason Stone's previous dabbling in supernatural weirdness as the writer/director of Jay And Seth Versus The Apocalypse starring Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, and the screenwriter Scott Abramovitch's prior televangelical comedy, Prayer Hour.

Along with Inger Ash Wolfe, whose novel The Calling was adapted for this film, not being Inger Ash Wolfe at all. But rather Canadian writer Michael Redhill - who only just outed himself as to his real identity in 2012.

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