The room is carefully lined. The chair put back, the tickets replaced. The plastic hula dancer’s skirt is motionless. Her body being removed from the office even more so. The floor is swept for dust, brass. Return a chair. It could be the same, warm with fear.
The mechanisms are not so modern. There is a seven segment display, red on black in a closed box. Countdown from three to zero. It is a beige plastic box, a standard cabinet lock in the bottom corner. There is a warning label, much like one you might find on a stenographer or in an electrical cabinet. A loud buzzer, a tone as insistent as the rush through the ears. Rules written in blood, danger of death. Email is mentioned, but computers are not. It’s tone dialling, not IP. Not even a headset, nothing to mess with your aim. A handset, buttons with letters, gray in a sea of shadows. A small notepad to take details. What color is the ink in the pen?
The danger of death is manifest, anthropomorphic. Black leather jacket, black shirt, black tie, polished black boots, a black rule book to refer to when the black phone, well, that would be revealing. The black steel of the gun speaks loud enough.
The rules are clear. As bright and bold as the phone book whose yellow pages carefully zoom in on but don’t connect with those of a particular brand identity. The shelves are not. Lined with boxes, or documents, or something. How many times have those coveralls darkened them and removed the still-warm trace of a fatal transfer of kinetic energy from their textured plastic surface? How long has this been going on? Where is this room? This place?
How did they get here? Pulse, dial. Fingers, tapping. The clock ticks on his little life preserver. A particular card game is mentioned, but it’s clear who has them all. It’s not what they say. That is less a question of absolutes than of relativity, perspective.
We’re in a room, Peter Schnobb’s lens works well within the confines of a tiny space where shots are taken side by side and within arm’s reach. They are necessarily small performances, some voices, a brand, a Jake, an executioner. Janitors have done this before, it’s in the nod, the gestures. That body language, the lack of language around bodies, raises more questions, but they don’t matter. As much as an ascendant indicates a query, this is a movie about tone. Claustrophobic, the beige of the office walls is quicksand.
Sam Rudykoff’s film adds to a canon of phone horror, from Phone Booth to Sorry To Bother You and more. Here in a cell phone calls are made with a simple purpose; two, you know, if you count the space between the muzzle and the forehead. Give a cruise. Free makes it a bargain. Compared to what, to whom, these are questions that will remain unanswered. Unlike phones.
Cruise screened as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival.
Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2022