James Westmoreland - Lt. Chris McCabe
Ben Frank - Sgt. Hatcher
Flo Gerrish - Dr. Lindsay Gale
Nicholas Worth - Kirk Smith
Genre - Horror/Thriller
Running Time - 94 Minutes
Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4
I dread answering the phone. Sometimes you receive a call from someone you don't want to talk to for whatever reason. Other times, it's those damn telemarketers trying to sell you penile implant pills when you don't need them. I don't need them! Really...I DON'T! Two inches is the new average size, right? RIGHT!!?? Seriously if it wasn't for Caller I.D., I'd probably never answer the phone. I hear that phone ring and see that horrible number and I yell at the people around me, "DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE!" Yet, they don't listen and end up speaking for a half hour while taking a pointless survey.
You're probably wondering why I'm even writing about this. Does this have anything to do with the sleazy exploitation flick, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE!? Nope, not all.
Ironically, neither does the title of the film have any relation to the film itself. No one is being threatened on a phone. Answering the phone won't cause people to die in seven days. No one breathes heavily on the phone to scare people. Seriously, why was this film called DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! anyway? Leave the answer on my voicemail because I'm dialing *69 on this misogynistic motherfucker!
Kirk Smith (Nicholas Worth) is some Vietnam vet with issues. Either he's lifting weights while yelling at his deceased father in order to make himself feel better, or he's posing as a photographer to lure women into his web so he can rape them and murder them. Not necessarily in that order. Ironically, all these victims seem to be mentally unstable and patients of a radio personality, Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Gerrish). When Dr. Gale starts seeing a correlation between her patients and their deaths [wow, ain't she a genius?], she goes to Lt. McCabe (James Westmoreland) and Sgt. Hatcher (Ben Frank) - two bumbling, idiotic cops who are on the case to find Smith. I think the POLICE ACADEMY cops solved more cases than these two morons. Gale and McCabe don't get along at all, meaning that they're gonna eventually exchange bodily fluids for no apparent reason. Once the two, and Hatcher, start working together, the two cops realize that Dr. Gale is Smith's real target and they must do everything in their power to stop Smith.
DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! is one of those Grindhouse era films that caused a lot of controversy during its release due to its portrayal of women. You wanna see women get slapped around by a hulking beast of a man? Do you want to watch women show off their tits because...well for our viewing pleasure? Do you want to invest your time in watching women cry and act helpless while the men around them do all the work and act...manly? Well this film is for you!
Believe me, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! is one of the sleaziest films you could ever watch. I actually felt kind of dirty watching this, just because I'm so used to seeing women fight back in these type of films. Instead, all the women are weak while the men are strong. The men are also misogynist pigs who laugh at all stereotypes and do the dumbest things just to keep the film moving. It doesn't help that the script by Robert Hammer and Mike Castle makes them this way. Why would I want to watch a woman who needs a man to help her survive? Instead of fighting back and kneeing the a-hole in the balls, the women just curl up into a ball and beg for their lives while letting the asshole do what he wishes to them. It's sexist and insulting to think that all women are helpless and weak. If their not, they're either prostitutes, victims of child abuse, or drug addicts. And it's funny how only one woman had a real professional job while the men were all working in some capacity. Yeah, that'll bring in an audience. The script is totally inept, with situations and dialogue that'll just make you roll your eyes.
Kirk Smith has got to be the sloppiest rapist/murder on celluloid. The dude constantly sweats. He doesn't use gloves. He screws women apparently without a condom. I know CSI wasn't the "in" thing back then, but catching a killer through DNA wasn't a new invention! He just did the stupidest things as the film went on, only to give the detectives a reason to figure out who he was and how to catch him. Hell, MURDER SHE WROTE had more inventive police investigations than this! How the cops didn't catch the guy after at least the second rape/murder is beyond me.
Speaking of Smith, I didn't get his deal. Sure I knew he was a nutjob, but was it because of Vietnam? Was it because of Daddy? Was it because of the puppy he loved and strangled to death as a child? Was it because of some religious purpose, like the film was trying to hint at but never followed through with? I mean, don't give me pieces and not solve the puzzle! Smith was the most interesting character by default but even I'm not really sure why.
The other characters are just terrible. Dr. Gale acts like a tough woman, but she's as weak as her patients. She actually tells Smith that she's scared of him to make him feel more powerful. I don't know what school she went to get her degree in Psychology. But I'd like to go there because if she can get one in four years, I know I can get one in four days. The two cops were incompetent jerks who treated women like objects and laughed at some dude dressed like a woman. That scene in the brothel house was just too silly for my tastes. "Ooh...that dude's wearing a bra and a thong! Hyuk! Hyuk! What a freak! That's so funny! Hyuk!" Jerks.
And the dialogue was just bizarre. I've heard some things in this film that I never thought possible. For example, some nurse got raped, murdered, and mutilated. One of the cops speaks with a police photographer about the victim: "Did you get a shot of that breast?" "Which one?" "The one that got bitten off." No one can be that stupid, right? Sigh...
Robert Hammer isn't a great director at all. The editing sucks. There's no tension, suspense, or thrilling action. The music sounds like a score from a leftover porn flick. There's a ridiculous montage of people at the police station supposedly working like some bad skit for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. There's that brothel scene I previously mentioned. Nothing seems to go together to create a logical and cohesive narrative. At least he knows how to use slo-mo. That counts, right?
The acting is just bad all around here. Nicholas Worth is the only actor that actually is pretty decent for the most part. He's very convincing as the killer, although he does go over-the-top a bit during certain parts of the film. Still, he was the only one given enough time to somewhat develop into a character. The dude was a sleazeball and looked like he hadn't showered in days. It worked for me. He's far from Travis Bickel but he was alright. Flo Gerrish was eh for me. She looked bored most of the time and when she was scared, she looked more constipated than anything. She was kind of hot though, so I'll let that slide. James Westmoreland and Ben Frank were terrible as the cops though. They tried to be Starsky and Hutch and failed miserably. They annoyed me to know end, especially Frank.
Even with all my negativity, the film is what it is. It's supposed to be sleazy. It's supposed to be bad. It's supposed to be misogynistic. I'm not gonna lie - the boob shots were a plus. For that, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! works on what it's trying to achieve. But I didn't really like it and I feel this could have been a much better film if there was some sort of attempt in doing so.
THE FINAL HOWL
DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! is not a great film but I guess it does what it does well. Maybe it's because I'm watching this from a modern perspective, but I don't think even people who were old enough to watch this film back in 1980 took comfort in knowing how certain people were portrayed. I mean, watching women act inferior and seeing African-Americans accept hearing the N-word from white people directly to their faces may be someone's cup of tea, but it sure ain't mine. Still, it's not the worst film I've seen, nor the greatest. Watch it if you want. If you don't, it's one less shower you'll need to take to get rid of the stench that emulates from DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! This one is not worth putting on redial.