This 1988 horror film from Italy (but dubbed into English) deals with a young model, played by Charlotte Lewis, who finds her life turning hellish when she begins being tormented by living phones … yes, living phones. As always with me, I love to laugh at bad horor movies like this that are NOT trying to be funny, but are so disastrously bad and have such ludicrous premises that they are unintentional comedy classics. Remember my reviews of movies like Death Bed, about a killer bed; Deafula, about a deaf vampire and The Lift, about a killer elevator? Lump this flick in with those.
Hardcore horror fans will be stunned to learn that the man behind this laughable mess is none other than Ruggero Deodato, the man behind Cannibal Holocaust. Both that movie and Dial Help made some audience members barf, but for entirely different reasons.
There’s no way to review this film without spoilers, but since nobody but us bad movie geeks hunt down this little honey these days it won’t really matter. If anything it might help the flick make sense to you on your first viewing.
Here goes: Our heroine, Jenny, has just been dumped by the man she loves and winds up under assault by every type of phone she tries to use, all of which are being animated by the ghosts of the long- dead operators from a Lonely Hearts phone line. No, I’m serious. The film opens with a cleaning woman (or something, the film never makes it clear) stumbliing into the abandoned office which the Lonely Hearts line used to operate from. The phones are still charged up with all kinds of, well, I don’t know – “sympathetic energy” from the operators who used to devote themselves to cheering up the lovelorn? Your guess is as good as mine.
At any rate the abandoned office is filled with dust- covered phones, cobwebs and pigeons (so maybe that’s NOT dust after all – rimshot). The phone lines come to life, wrap the woman in their cords like a spider (okay, a really goofy spider) wrapping its webbing around its prey and drag her into a utility closet. We get frequent glimpses of this abandoned office and its very skittish pigeons throughout the film, but thanks to this review, you won’t be as puzzled by them as I was when I watched this.
Our lead Jenny calls the defunct Lonely Hearts line and the disembodied operators fixate on her and begin haunting her day and night. Though the ghosts killed the cleaning woman (her decaying corpse shows up late in the movie when someone – you guessed it – opens the utility closet door) it turns out they are trying to help Jenny.
The ghosts do this by killing off all the people in Jenny’s life. If you have no idea why they would think killing off her friends would be a benefit to her, just wait until you meet the pack of annoying jackasses Jenny pals around with. Early scenes in the film, in which phones ring wherever Jenny goes and when she answers there are eerie voices coming through, are almost creepy, I have to admit. But the scenes where the phones kill people are among the most hilarious in bad movie history.
As you could guess, there are scenes where the phones kill by wrapping their cords around people, even faking a suicide by hanging for Jenny’s photographer friend. The funniest death scenes involve the killer phones getting more inventive, by using high- pitched sounds to shatter glass to slice one victim’s head to ribbons, or using the same method to cause another victim’s electronic pacemaker to malfunction to the point where their heart bursts out of their chest (I hate when that happens, don’t you?).
The death-scene everybody talks about from this film comes when the spirits animate a subway payphone to save our heroine from a would- be rapist. The payphone shoots coins from its coin slot at such a great velocity that those coins pierce the attacker’s body like bullets, leaving a gory mess of holes and a few coins half-stuck out of the dead man’s body. If you can watch this scene without laughing your ass off you don’t have any trace of a sense of humor.
As in the best bad movies, nobody’s actions make any sense in this laugher, and the ending takes the cake. After surviving the hell that the phone- ghosts put her through, Jenny sics the ghosts instead on the guy who dumped her before the events in the film! She does this while sharing a laugh with the new man in her life, acquired during the assault of the phone- ghosts, and its presented as a light- hearted ending!!!!! I guess “So long, assholes!” would be Jenny’s words to all the people close to her ex-beau since they will soon be as dead as our “heroine’s” own loved ones. And s0, with a mischievous giggle and an amorous cuddle between our male and female leads the movie ends. Ain’t love grand?
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