A Good Start But... (spoiler warning!!!)
Jason Whitt | Southwest Mich., United States | 02/21/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I have a few problems with this film. First, hasn't the "I know you're home alone" routine been done to death? This is a forgivable sin in my book however since I have a soft spot for slasher films.
My second issue is that this film was marketed as a gory horror flick which it certainly is not. The DVD disc itself is adorned with copious blood splatters and a shot of the main character giving her best "Psycho" shower scream. Alas, a few bloody sheets in crime photos are as close as this one gets to a slasher. But sadly this film even fails as a psychological/serial killer thriller.
The first act of this film is actually pretty good. The set-up is sufficiently engrossing and a few potentially interesting characters are introduced. However, as it moves into the second act, (which is the meat and potatoes of any film), it gradually unravels into a disjointed, overlong, and tedious mess with some pretty awful dialogue and acting thrown in for good measure (think Lifetime Network here). There are countless scenes which serve in no way to advance the plot.
The greatest sin of this film though, is that there is absolutely no sense of suspense or jeopardy after the first 20 minutes of the film. Any chance of that is dashed because the main character is accompanied in EVERY SINGLE SCENE either by a police detective who has opted to shack up in her apartment or the ever present and overacted FBI criminal psychologist. How can you create a sense of tension or danger when the girl is never alone!!! The only jeopardy is whether or not the cops can catch the killer before he claims another victim (which we don't really care about because we never see the killer or his random victims).
Of course the third act reveals the Shyamalanesque "twist" which is supposed to wipe away all the nonsense you're forced to endure for over an hour in the second act. And really this third act "revelation" shouldn't be much of a surprise to most viewers. SPOILER ALERT!!! It is revealed that the events leading up to the "surprise" have taken place in the mind of the main character who is mentally distrubed. That's right folks, the dreaded dream sequence card is played to end this one. A cardinal sin in my book. While this "surprise" revelation does provide a perfectly logical reason for why the second act is such a trainwreck, it is in no way enough of a payoff to justify the viewer being subjected to over an hour of paper thin and ludicrous characters, inane dialogue and largely directionless scenes. Just because it turns out that the entire second act took place in the main character's mind doesn't change the fact that you still had to sit through it! Many will like the film simply for the gimmick. As moviegoers we seem to like to be tricked. But as evidenced by Long Distance, being tricked doesn't necessarily equate to good filmmaking."
Curses! Another Serial Killer Is On The Phone--What's A Gir
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 02/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Long Distance" is an intriguing little film that I discovered quite by accident. Yet another in a long line of low budget movies about serial killers, there is more to this indie than at first might meet the eye. It doesn't break any new cinematic ground, but manages to take a worn premise and make it feel fresh and different. The film is a claustrophobic, unsettling and dread-filled experience whose first half develops an effective mood that sustains the picture, even when aspects of the script start to strain credibility. Credit must be given to the tight direction, solid performances, and skillfully understated cinematography--even without a lot of money, you can create a real creepiness. And the creepy ambiance of "Long Distance" is what distinguishes it from less effective fare.
The film's simple setup puts us in the apartment of Nicole, played nicely by Monica Keena. Upset and alone after a recent breakup, Nicole gets into a long distance argument with her mother late one evening. When she attempts to call her back, she misdials and gets someone else's answering machine. Almost immediately, that call is returned by an unknown man calling himself an "average Joe." Having used Caller ID to reach her, they start a conversation that alternately amuses and annoys Nicole. He keeps calling, however, until Nicole shuts off her answering service. Thinking nothing of it, a detective visits the next day--seems the phone calls had come from the home of a lady who had been brutally murdered. Nicole is justifiably upset, but things get even worse when "Joe" starts calling more frequently--always from the scene of a murder. As "Joe" seems to be traveling cross country on his killing spree, Nicole works with the police to try and stop him.
On the surface, this seems like a pretty standard setup. What makes it work so well is Keena's performance. An interesting actress that has not followed the typical ingenue career path, Keena is extremely effective at conveying the many layers necessary for the part. Her fear, her shame, her helplessness--it all seems natural. The film is set exclusively in her apartment building and she is in almost every shot, so caring about her is vital to the success of "Long Distance." And I did care. The film develops a genuinely haunting mood, and the phone conversations are done impeccably. It's very scary, especially since it's all done via telephone.
Unfortunately, I didn't love everything in the film. The police procedural can seem pretty empty-headed or unbelievable at times. This is explained, in theory, during the film's conclusion, so you can forgive some of the frustration it may cause you. And the resolution, itself, has become somewhat of a standard cliche' in this type of film. Some may love it, but it seemed awfully familiar to me--especially after the rest of the film had been so surprisingly good. About 3 1/2 stars, I could really round it either way and it would be a fair rating. But in this case, the creepy mood and Keena's spot-on performance have me rounding up. KGHarris, 02/07."
T. McClure | Franklin, MA | 02/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie had me on the edge of my seat. If you are looking for a gore fest this isn't it, this is more suspensful, along the Hitchcock genre. The twist at the end is unexpected and mindblowing."
Excellent Thriller Gets Sabotaged By Awful Ending
Stephen B. O'Blenis | Nova Scotia, Canada | 12/04/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Long Distance" spends the first 85 or so minutes of its 93-minute running time establishing itself as one of the better thrillers ever made, and the rest of the length deflating terribly with an ending that just doesn't work, and worse, detracts badly from the rest of the movie. It's a shame because everything up until that point was very well done, not just thrown together, with some fine performances; in the end though, the desire to have an unexpected twist ending instead of a more generic finish proved to be its undoing.
Monica Keena (Lori from "Freddy Vs. Jason") plays a girl named Nicole who dials a wrong number (by one digit) from her apartment, and ends up getting a strange, creepy voice on the other end. After some unsettling comments from her wrong number, she hangs up, but gets called right back. The benefits of caller ID. It turns out Nicole's interrupted the work of a serial killer, who's become interested in the idea of playing mind games with her. So over the next few days he calls and re-calls her with more taunts. Once the police are involved, the discovery is made that each call is being made from closer and closer as the caller crosses the country to Nicole's current location, and worse still, each call turns out to have been made from the site of a different recent murder.
It's a great concept with real suspense, and the subtle relationship budding between Nicole and the police officer assigned to be her main protection is very skillfully handled. Nicole's apartment building is watched constantly and guarded by the police as they wait to capture the killer if he makes it that far, while other police forces across the country try to use clues from the phone calls to home in on him before he kills anyone else. And then....
The fact that everything is done so well for well over an hour makes the ending all the more regrettable. If they were going for a twist they got it, because I never remotely saw it coming until it started happening. And I remember as it was starting just thinking Oh-no,-they're-Can't-be-going-where-I-think-they're-going-with-this. This type of ending has been done in sort of the same way a few times previously. It never worked then, and it didn't work here. If they'd just gone with a generic, happened-a-thousand-times-before finale, it might have been anticlimatic, but it would have left the movie as a whole relatively unscathed. I don't mean to be so negative, but I hated to see such a great movie hamstrung so badly by its end. If "Long Distance" had been just an okay movie with a weak ending, it wouldn't have been so unfortunate, but it was So good right up until the last ten minutes or so.
Now others might find the conclusion a lot more palatable than I did - it Was unexpected, and the good acting carries through even despite...well. But for me, it was on its way to being a 9/10 or so, and it dropped down to about a five. I'd really like to round the star rating up to three in honor of its early going, but I've made the mistake previously of rating too many really fine movies with a three-star (maybe I set the bar too high early on) that I can't justify it here. I wish there was a two-and-a-half star option.
To make up for having to admit how disappointing the ending was, I'll finish off with a recap of some of the many positives. Innovative idea, fine pacing, strong performances (especially by Keena), a few terrifically tense moments and some surprisingly touching ones. I'm still glad I saw it, but when it was over it just seemed so unfortunate that they came close to hitting the jackpot and missed it by one number that was so far off base; I'd definately recommend renting before buying. The cast and crew all did well; maybe they should reunite for another movie. Heck, maybe they should reunite and remake this and not take that twist.
That first 85 minutes or so was awfully good, though."