For those wondering, ATM was a slasher film that starred Josh Peck. Where the killer had people trapped and every known trope and cliché of a slasher film, and all the tricks involved with the technical side of things was exploited. There is a difference between that film and this film though, one was funny and the other one was just cruel and stupid. Don’t Hang Up is one of those modern day slashers that doesn’t understand that while being technically proficient, it still doesn’t mean your movie is good. Revenge films often fall prey to their own hubris that people will enjoy them for the simple fact of people not liking the characters and hoping to see them get what’s coming to them. The simple fact of torturing people out of a source of entertainment has merits if there is a point to all of this, and not just any point oh no…it needs to be a good point to make us sit through watching people suffer greatly over a prolonged period of time. So where did Don’t Hang Up fall short where ATM still manages to be watchable?
Don’t Hang Up is a story about four teens who enjoying prank calling and tormenting people over the phone. Much like the videos we sometimes see from time to time on Youtube, these are prank videos that target people’s fears for a cheap laugh and are crueler than anything else. I have never heard of a prank call group as cruel as this, but I mean that’s not say that what they do is not bad. What we have is four guys calling with the point of having people squirm and them enjoying every moment of their agony while they then get a lot of views on Youtube. I mean let’s be honest…this is an easy set up for a revenge story, and it opens up with one of their cruel pranks and them laughing about it. Enter the crazy revenge filled killer and we have a movie. The main problem with this premise is that none of the members of this group is particularly likeable or unique, even the one we are supposed to feel some sympathy for because he is a “boy scout” is not even really that nice and is as dull as a plank of wood. So right outta the gate they have a premise built on the fact that you will enjoy the suffering of others for an hour and a half and has given you a cast of unlikeable characters like bowling pins ready for the eventual bowling ball to knock them over.
In a good revenge film, you need someone to root for. You need a centerpiece in your main cast to sit behind during the watch time, and Don’t Hang Up doesn’t have that. It tries to make some sympathetic, but they come off as bland frat characters that you have seen as extras in more terrifying movies. The ones killed off first because prolonged runtime with them involved will annoy the audience more than anything. Even the killer is a dumbed down version of the Scream voice, which had four movies to overplay itself and the trope of the killer calling over the phone. There was nothing done to spice it up or to endear us to the events at hand. Instead the film asks you to watch two stupid kids be terrorized by a vigilante and enjoy it as a slasher film with next to no point besides saying “pranks can go too far and could come back to haunt you”. I mean there are better ways to do that, try a courtroom drama or something to show the effect of all involved instead of making a film that wishes to thrive on the enjoyment of pain.
Why does this slasher film exist in the first place is I think the best question I can pose because it is hard fathoming the rationale behind this script. It is like watching Saw 3 or 4, by that point the formula has gone stiff and there is no mystery or even cult classic element to keep it going. They are just there to torture people, and for people to watch others die or be tortured in horrific ways whether physically or mentally. To me that is not what a good horror film is about, that is an exploitation piece without a purpose behind it. Don’t Hang Up arguably sits in that sort of area due to the fact by the end of the movie you will be wondering why you were watching it. It is like a tech demo for what the directors and team could do rather than a solid enough film to be watching. Which is a bit disappointing because with a better story I could actually see this team doing really well instead of trying to play to the tendencies of the now. Do something timeless rather than trying to capitalize on something of the now.
The weirdest element of this film is not the unlikeable cast of bland characters, the predictable beats or even the pointless story, but rather how the killer is doing all of this. We know he has been tracking them for a while, but that never really shows us how he becomes this wiz with technology, stealth and surveillance. He boasts an impressive repertoire that puts other killers in slasher films to shame with his effectiveness. I understand submitting oneself to the world of the movie but when the one element of the film, the revenge part of the revenge slasher, which you are supposed to understand is shaky at best then there is a core issue that the filmmakers can’t get over. When your killer lacks coherency besides a basic motivation, and has a problem with maintaining a level of focus forcing the viewer to think of how he is doing everything instead of the why, then there is a problem with your killer.
In the end this film is completely passable and you have no need to satiate your curiosity with it like I did. Usually films like this can at the least be funny in their attempt to be serious, much like ATM, yet Don’t Hang Up takes its premise and effectively makes us question the journey. It makes us wonder why we spent our time watching it because all it is, is a revenge fantasy. Dark exploitation with the only point of punishing terrible people with even worse circumstances and not caring if innocents are caught in the process. If you want to watch something in this vein, you are better off with so many other films or television shows. I look forward to seeing what the filmmakers could do next as they have proven themselves quite capable. Don’t Hang Up…should never have been picked up in the first place and I am unfortunately going to disconnect that phone from any future use.
This movie was a result of people having a decent premise but ended up with good-looking dead air. A slasher film that muddies up its point and flaunting around an air of exploitation. Dark for the sake of dark and that is sad because the potential was there, much like all bad movies. I mean this had potential to be better than ATM, because ATM had a bad premise that lead to hilarity. This had a decent premise that lead to dark boredom and cliches up the wazoo. It is a sad reality of horror films today where the talent needs to have the right elements to make a movie soar.
So have you watched Don’t Hang Up? What do you think of the whole exploitation revenge fantasy business some horror movies have? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a great day!