Horror films are about what a culture fears. The Call (as much a horror film as a thriller, at heart) is not so much about generic movie fears, like random abductions and physical torture, but alienation and abandonment—heightened by technologies like the cell phone, which has monopolized communication. Today, we conflate communication with being connected, with being plugged in.
"Don't forget me," Casey (Abigail Breslin) pleads with her mother—in a recorded message—in the film's most brutally honest emotional moment. When faced with possible immanent extinction, one yearns for neither scores of contacts nor dozens of virtual "friends" but one true, human relationship.
The dehumanizing effects of technology are at the core of the smarter, more difficult movie hovering around the edges of The Call. Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) works in a glorified cubicle called "The Hive," complete with a "Quiet Room" where 911 operators can reflect after a "bad" call if they inadvertently violate the directions to not become emotionally invested in their caller's situation.
One trainee complains that the hardest aspect of her job is the lack of closure: protocols designed to keep emotions at bay eventually strip the operators of that which makes them human. The operators don't simply use machines; they are pressed to become machines themselves. Even the opening aerial shots present the city as a giant, complex organism, in which the individual voices flooding the call center are no more distinguishable from one another than the cars crawling like insects on the freeway.
After young Casey is abducted and put in the trunk of a car with nothing but ...