A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Call is a Korean thriller about a young woman who returns to her abandoned childhood home only to find another young woman calling her on the landline phone screaming for help. There's lots of violence, blood, and some gore. A young woman is tied up, beaten, and burned. A handful of adults are killed with knives; several stabbing scenes. We see the cleaning up of blood, body parts in plastic bags. People are in peril, terror, and fear. Lots of screaming and crying. Plenty of swearing, with frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "bitch," and "goddamn." Adults smoke and drink.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE CALL, Kim Seo-yeon (Park Shin-Hye) moves back into her old family home, long abandoned. Her father is dead and her mother is in a hospital for vulnerable adults. After getting unpacked and situated, Seo-yeon receives a phone call from another young woman screaming for help. These calls continue, and eventually Seo-yeon realizes that the young woman on the phone, Young-sook (Jun Jong-Seo), is somehow calling from the past, from inside the same house. This woman in the past seems to be in danger. Gaining Seo-yeon's trust, Young-sook makes Seo-yeon's father alive again, as Young-sook prevents the accident that killed him. This new future finds Seo-yeon's mother not ill and in hospital, but still with her husband, still in the same house, and still living naturally with their daughter. So Seo-yeon advises Young-sook that according to old news stories, she will be murdered by her stepmother. But after Young-sook manages to escape death, she begins to demand more and more from Seo-yeon. Will Seo-yeon somehow manage to change the past to keep her present from spiraling into complete annihilation?
Is it any good?
This movie certainly requires some suspension of disbelief, but it still delivers thrills while providing unexpected twists and scares along the way. The Call starts out with a silly premise, a phone in an abandoned house that somehow connects those on either end through time. This phenomenon is never explained, and the reasons why these two young women are connected is also never explored, but the writing is surprising and tense. The actors clearly relish their incredibly juicy scenes, especially Jun Jong-Seo (Young-sook), like when she finds herself very disappointed with an outcome and vents by beating and punching a bunch of body parts tied up in plastic bags that are floating in a large sink. Within seconds she's fully in the sink herself, thrashing about, punching, and screaming. Likewise, Park Shin-Hye continues to impress, and she again stuns with an incredibly emotive and tender performance, needing to cry often, scream, and also somehow get revenge.
The deeper social underpinnings of why a family-less family drama like The Call resonates so strongly in South Korea (and also films like Mother, Parasite, Oldboy) might be misunderstood or missed altogether by non-Korean audiences, but in no way does this take away from the film working as a simply effective thriller with a fun conceit. For instance, when Seo-yeon finds out that Young-sook was an orphan and now cared for by an "evil stepmother" figure, Seo-yeon notably reacts in a devastated fashion, showing immense sadness and compassion toward Young-sook. But the plot and horror of The Call belies a darker norm of Korean society and culture where family is everything. It reinforces, again, that those without "real" family can easily lose themselves and quickly turn to evil as they are "lost."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence and use of blood in The Call. Did these horror elements enhance your viewing experience? Why or why not? Would this film be as scary, thrilling, and horrific without the blood and violence?
Why do you think Young-sook behaved the way she did? Was her stepmother right to try to contain what she saw as "future evil"?
Is there anything you would have done differently? How might you prevent someone in the past from changing your present?
What did you think of the epilogue?
What lesson do you think Seo-yeon learned after all was over?
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