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June 2, 2017

Don’t Hang Up

by Franz Patrick

Don’t Hang Up (2016)
★ / ★★★★

Damien Macé and Alexis Wajsbrot’s “Don’t Hang Up” makes a solid double feature with Kasra Farahani’s “The Good Neighbor” because both movies have the potential to comment on today’s prank culture—specifically how pranks, from relatively harmless to potentially life-threatening, are posted on the internet for the sake of likes, views, and comments without regard to the people being pranked—but they miss the reason why the best horror-thrillers tend to stick with the audience: social commentary, preferably a hot topic at the time of the picture’s release, veiled as entertainment. This film is rife with horror movie tropes yet it is without the intelligence, creativity, and verve necessary to satisfy both the most and least experienced with the genre.

From the moment the mysterious voice is heard from the other line, I knew exactly the identity of the killer. This leaves little room for mystery, tension, or even a smidgen of intrigue amongst the characters. The manner in which the material explains the identity of the killer in the third act is not only most uninspired but also boring—like a chore that had to be performed because everything must be spelled out for the viewers. This is a film that does not respect its audience because it assumes that everybody watching is an idiot.

Screenwriter Joe Johnson fails to create interesting characters. Sam (Gregg Sulkin) and Brady (Garrett) are best friends and part of a team that makes prank calls. The recordings are then uploaded on the internet because it’s funny when people are humiliated, are scared to death, and believe that their loved ones are in mortal danger. Johnson neglects to give us a reason to care about Sam and Brady other than the fact that, even though they are mean pranksters, they do not deserve to die. A more intelligent writing would have challenged us to actually like the duo despite what they do on their spare time. Instead, they utter the phrase “Brothers for life” several times throughout the film’s interminable duration—as if that’s supposed to mean something.

The majority of the picture takes place in a house and yet notice how we never grow familiar with its layout. This is because we are never convinced in the first place that we are in an actual home. Instead, it looks like a set. No dust is found on any surface. Nearly everything has its place. It appears as though utensils and the like have never been used. There are pictures displayed in the living room but take a closer look and recognize that all of the pictures are recent. Real houses, real homes tend to have pictures of when parents were younger, when their children were still toddlers or infants. Its failure to establish a sense of realism or reality is one of the reasons why we never feel scared.

Unimaginative down to its atom, “Don’t Hang Up” has nothing to say about anything. It aims to entertain, I suppose, but the rules of the genre must be recognized first and then small twists regarding such rules must be present. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’d like the filmmakers to answer this question because they owe the viewers an explanation for delivering bottom-of-the-barrel leftovers.


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