Movie review: ‘Don’t Hang Up’ (2016)

December 10, 2017

When I was about eight years old, I was tempted by a friend to make prank calls. I continued even after she left for the day, but felt so guilty afterwards that I never did it again. Unfortunately, the protagonists in the 2016 horror movie Don’t Hang Up didn’t have that kind of guilt, because their prank calls continued well into their teens…with disastrous consequences.

Brady (Garrett Clayton) and his friend Sam (Gregg Sulkin) are the aforementioned protagonists. The two are so into making prank calls that they’ve started recording the calls and posting them online. But some of their pranks go too far, and it seems someone is finally giving them a taste of their own medicine when they’re locked inside Brady’s home and called by a stranger who tells them that if they hang up, they die.

Structurally, the movie is fine. The pacing is good, the setting contained and atmospheric. The acting is passable, though it’s weird to see Gregg Sulkin in a role like this after watching him for years in Wizards of Waverly Place, where the worst thing he said was, “Oh, mushy peas!”

But the narrative falls apart with its characters. Maybe I shouldn’t judge; after all, everyone has a guilty pleasure, and prank videos are all the rage these days. But as someone who felt such immense guilt at their own pranks, I can’t sympathize with these characters, who go so far as to make their victims believe they’re in actual danger.

I watch a lot of horror movies with a lot of douchebag characters, but with the exception of 2015 bomb The Gallows, the douchebags of Don’t Hang Up are among the worst. Sure, plenty of horror movies feature unlikable characters you know will be killed off for audience satisfaction. But these cautionary tale movies generally feature a higher body count and more regular kills. You don’t even get that here.

If mean pranks and jerk-ish characters don’t bother you, you may enjoy Don’t Hang Up. If not, skip it.

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