Monday, June 1, 2015

Private Number Review

I was initially drawn to Private Number because of Tom Sizemore and Judd Nelson. The premise sounded interesting, but it was their involvement that really caught my eye. As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons to give this indie thriller a watch, and while Sizemore and Nelson are in fact in the movie, they both only have bit parts (despite being displayed prominently on the cover art) and don't have a lot of screen time. Still, this mystery/supernatural/thriller doesn't need to rely on star power to make a name for itself.

Plot synopsis from the Summer House Pictures website:

A series of sinister phone calls haunt an ex-alcoholic writer as he struggles to finish a novel. Efforts to trace the calls result in dead ends, leaving the author with no choice but to solve the mystery himself. As he pieces together scant information he discovers the local police are hiding details about a horrific serial killer. In his obsessive search for answers, he loses his grip on reality, and spirals downward into a maelstrom of violence and terror.

Private Number kept me guessing. It takes inspiration from several different places, part The Shining, part Se7en, and while it isn't as good as those films by any means, it's impossible not to make the connections. There's definitely more of a supernatural vibe than I was expecting, which ended up being a good thing. Just when you think you have a handle on where the story is going, the film shifts in tone. In some instances this can be jarring, but writer/director LazRael Lison handles the transition well, raising questions but never so much so that you feel lost. Things continuously ramp up to what was ultimately a bit of a disappointing ending. It's not so much that it was a bad ending, just an abrupt one, and I was still ready for wherever else the story was going. 

The film mainly focuses on Michael and Kathy, played by Hal Ozsan and Nicholle Tom respectively. The two turn in solid performances, as Michael struggles with the horrific hallucinations and trying to stay sober, and Kathy has to deal with her husband slowly going crazy, as well as her own deteriorating health. There's a lot of delicate subject matter, on top of the hallucinations and murder, which keeps the movie grounded throughout. If the cast hadn't been up to the challenge, this could have been disastrous. 

Private Number is an easy recommendation for fans of thrillers with light horror elements, Stir of Echoes comes to mind. It may lack the polish of similar bigger budget affair, it does enough to entertain for it's 95 minute runtime. For those looking for a more traditional horror experience, there are definitely things to like here, but not enough to likely satisfy. 

The film is available on DVD tomorrow, June 2nd. 

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