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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Long Distance
Long Distance
Image // R // December 19, 2006
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Mike Long | posted February 15, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

A new musical trend which developed (relatively) recently is the "mash up". This is where two seemingly different types of music are blended together to create one harmonious sound. Something similar can happen in movies where two ideas are blended together. The film Long Distance takes the telephone hi-jinks of Scream and When a Stranger Calls and mashes them together to create a plot. This is a great idea, but is it enough to sustain an entire film?

Monica Keena stars in Long Distance as Nicole Freeman, a graduate student who lives alone in an apartment in Boston. Nicole recently split from her boyfriend and she's been down. She calls her mother to chat and they get into an argument over Nicole's relationship, and Nicole hangs up on her Mom. Feeling bad, Nicole calls her back, but accidentally dials the wrong number and gets a stranger's answering machine. She then dials again and gets her mother. After they talk, Nicole's phone rings. A man who calls himself Joe is on the other end of the line and he wants to know why Nicole called his number. She explains that it was a simple mistake, but Joe keeps talking to her. Confused and a bit scared, Nicole hangs up.

The next day, Nicole is visited by police detective Frank Halsey (Ivan Martin). Frank explains that a woman was murdered in Nevada and that her phone records show that one call coming from Nicole's number and several calls going to her number. Stunned, Nicole explains the wrong number. Nicole is understandably shocked by this, but things get worse when Joe calls again and another murder is committed. FBI Special Agent Margaret Wright (Tamala Jones) joins the case and Nicole's phone is tapped. Through the traces, it becomes clear that Joe is working his way across the country to get Nicole.

Again, Long Distance is a very thinly-veiled combo of Scream and When a Stranger Calls. Hats off to writers Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen, and Glenn Cooper, as they do create some interesting scenarios using this concept. The best scene is essentially a twisted reversal of When a Stranger Calls, as Nicole calls one of Joe's victims to warn the woman that Joe is inside of her house...some 2000 miles away from where Nicole is. However, minor triumphs like this can't sustain the entire film. There are long stretches between Joe's phone calls where we watch Nicole wander her apartment, or talk to Frank, or verbally spar with Agent Wright. None of these scenes are very interesting. There are also several strange dream sequences with Nicole. One has to wonder if the writers thought that they could string out their somewhat creative, yet limited idea for the length of a feature film.

As it turns out, they had no intention of doing so. The last 15 minutes of Long Distance become a very different movie, as the emphasis switches from suspense to (supposedly) intense action. Then the movie shoots itself in the foot with a twist ending which comes out of nowhere...sort of. In the last five minutes of the movie, Long Distance does a complete 180 on the viewer and brings in a twist which would make M. Night Shyamalan do double-take...while he was rolling his eyes. I said that the ending came out of nowhere sort of because the finale does tie into Nicole's dreams and some of the objects in her apartment, but it still feels very cheap and tacked on. Long Distance doesn't feel like a film was intended to have a surprise ending -- Rather I got the impression that the twist was there because the writers had no idea where else to go.

Story ups and downs aside, Long Distance is a fairly mediocre thriller in every other way. Keena is good in the lead, and she seems to be making a career out of playing nice, vulnerable women who find themselves in dire situations. (I just wish that someone would put her in better costumes!) Martin and Jones are OK as the law-enforcement, but both look unsure at times. Director Marcus Stern doesn't do anything spectacular, but he seems up to the task of creating different shots as 98% of the film is set in Nicole's apartment.

Video

Long Distance hits *69 on DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For a non-descript film reportedly shot of under $1 million, this transfer looks pretty good. There is some slight grain on the image, but otherwise it's free from defects from the source material. The colors look very good here, as the film contains many solid primary colors. The image is stable, showing no video noise or artifacting. I noted some subtle haloes around characters at times, but otherwise the image looked fine.

Audio

The DVD carries a Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There were some occasional stereo effects which highlighted sounds coming from various parts of Nicole's apartment, but that was about it as far as anything impressive. The surround effects are very subtle and add nothing to the presentation.

Extras

The only extras on the Long Distance DVD are a TRAILER (letterboxed at 1.78:1, but not 16 x 9) and a STILL GALLERY.


Long Distance takes an interesting idea and goes as far as it can with it. But, instead of taking the story to a logical conclusion or just throwing up its hands in defeat, the movie decides to pull a Hitchcockian twist which simply asks too much of the audience. This one is worth a rental at best, but I wouldn't travel too far to get it.
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