DON’T HANG UP (2016)
Starring Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne and Sienna Guillory
Directed by Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot
Written by Joe Johnson
Out on DVD on 12th June 2017 and Digital on 26th June 2017 courtesy of Solo Media and Matchbox Films
“An evening of drunken prank calls becomes a nightmare for a pair of teenagers when a mysterious stranger turns their own game against them…with deadly consequences“.
Social media themed thrillers are everywhere now. Some are actually quite successful, with Unfriended somehow managing to make a film entirely shot through webcams gripping, and the glossy thriller Nerve was a fun time. But they all come with a built in flaw, one that is completely incurable. As soon as they’re released, possibly as soon as they’re scripts are finished, they become dated. Social media is constantly evolving, on a daily basis. Seriously, how many Facebook updates have you had in the past month? In the digital age, a techno thriller has a tough task staying up to date for its savvy target audience.
Enter Don’t Hang Up, which does itself no favours by having characters who are still using consumer camcorders when they have 4K iPhones that can upload their pranks directly to YouTube! I wouldn’t bring any of this up if not for the fact that this is all vital to the plot and characters. And it’s details like these which start chipping away at the believability.
Speaking of characters, there are no heroes here. Our protagonists are dicks, particularly Brady (Clayton), an irritating dick. And no matter how lovesick Sam (Sulkin) is, he is still a dick. Which is fine, we don’t need likeable characters, as long as they’re interesting. But these are just those pricks Lad Bible like to make famous. The opening scene, involving their horrible prank on Sienna Guillory’s mother, establishes that. Now, this would all again be fine, if the film took a more satirical stance, and really analysed these YouTube personalities and their affect on society. But the filmmakers go with a traditional thriller instead, stalked by an all seeing malevolent home invader playing a twisted game Jigsaw would do after he watched When A Stranger Calls, and the suspense in those only works for me if I give a shit about the people involved. And I really didn’t.
The leads struggle with the script, which forces Sulkin and Clayton to be hysterical as soon as the shit hits the fan. It would have been much more fun to see the snivelling little sociopaths begin to show their true colours. But they are just asked to cry or look like they’ve been crying a lot. It’s annoying.
I’ll say one thing though, the directors know how to make a small film feel big, with lots of cinematic stylistic flourishes throughout a very brisk runtime. It’s just a shame the writer didn’t share their ambitions.
This all may sound like I didn’t enjoy Don’t Hang Up, but I actually did. It’s a fairly fun contained thriller, with some nice sadism thrown in and some actual surprises. But this subject is so rife and relevant and ready for an ambitious exploration that I wanted more. It just fails to live up to the promise of its premise for me.