Released Feb. 10, 2017
Rated R – 1hr 23min
Directed by Damien Macé & Alexis Wajsbrot
Starring Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne
When a pair of irrepressible internet pranksters (Sulkin & Clayton) have the tables turned on them by a digital intruder, dark secrets will be revealed and impossible choices will be made.
This is a ‘Who Will Survive and What Will Remain?’ type of story. It plays totally by-the-book, but ratchets the tension in a steady arc toward the inevitable confrontation between the mice and the cat.
It would be a disservice to not mention this straight away – Don’t Hang Up features two of the most unlikable protagonists in recent memory. In the prologue, they and their buddy PrankMonkey69 (yeah, really) record and upload their relentless torment of people with practical jokes that border on the criminal to the delight of their hundreds of thousands of fans. They’re not just dickbags – they are dickbags famous for their dickbaggery. You’ve likely met more subtle versions of these dipshits in real life, and if the meeting didn’t end with you punching them in the face, you strongly considered it. Well, these guys beg for trachea-collapsing throat punches, to put things in perspective.
That’s why it’s so fulfilling to watch their shit get absolutely turned upside down. The ‘villain’ – Mr. Lee – holds back nothing as he delights in unraveling their lives like balls of yarn. As things proceed, he demonstrates that he’s no saint himself, so this really is a film with no heroes, but damn, it was entertaining to see him run these rats through the gauntlet, even if those rats display their more vulnerable human tendencies as the situation grows ever more dire.
All told though, the story isn’t particularly special. There’s been numerous movies – the Scream & Saw franchises among them – where a mysterious puppet master settles their scores with hapless victims through various games, taunts, and traps. Don’t Hang Up does nothing to further the concept in any notable way. And while the acting is serviceable, the direction does deserve some praise. Macé & Wajsbrot bring a surprising amount of visual flair to the proceedings, which is otherwise a rote homage to 90s slashers. They’re both digital FX maestros who have worked on Marvel movies, Game of Thrones, and James Cameron’s Avatar – to name a few – and that experience shines through with an effort that exudes more style and flourish than one might expect from the concept. Hopefully, they follow this one up with another horror entry in the future and, if they do, they have a better script. Seriously, these characters suck.
Don’t Hang Up gets a