Fatal Pictures’ Hang Up! is premiering at FilmQuest September 7 through September 15, and I jumped at the opportunity to give this short film a watch. Hang Up! is brought to viewers by the team that delivered previous hit short films Familiar, Heir, The Last Halloween and Worm, and while this title deviates from the shock-and-awe that’s featured throughout earlier Fatal Pictures and Red Sneakers Media productions, it’s sinister and enthralling in its own special way. Based on the screenplay by Richard Powell, Hang Up! follows a man at work who receives an accidental butt dial from his wife. As he sits back and listens to what should be a funny spectacle, the man gets an unexpected look into the private life of his loving wife – and the madness that lies behind her beauty. Robert Nolan stars alongside the voices of Astrida Auza and Jane Pokou in a piece that delivers sad truths and horrifying revelations.
Director Richard Powell definitely had a specific vision when he brought Hang Up! to life. For me, it’s styled so much like Black Christmas, When A Stranger Calls, and other late 70’s/early 80’s classics to avoid that comparison; even when you take into account that this short film was released in black and white instead of color. At the same time, it takes narrative cues and potent styles from early 90’s crime dramas, that all blend together into this neat throwback feel that’s simple, elegant, and daunting enough to keep the audience entertained. Congratulations to Powell, cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson, and editor Marc Roussel for creating a genre-crossing, artistically blended, dark psychological-thriller that truly is an example of expert independent film-making. It’s almost film noir. Powell, Roussel, Zach Green, Greg Machula and Ron Basch also deserve acknowledgement as producers who helped gather the fundamental pieces that’s sure to make Hang Up! another Fatal Pictures hit at film festivals.
As far as the horror element goes, this could be where I have to mark this title down. I’m not sure if it squeezes inside the horror genre enough to receive the label; although all of the cast and crew have heavy resumes in this field. Robert Nolan may star, since he’s the only actor who appears in the whole film, but Astrida Auza steals the show as the crazy wife, Emelia. The mental deprivation she goes through during the butt dial is ominous because you can’t help but to wonder who she’s talking to on her end. It’s almost as if the viewer is a fly on the wall during a patient’s therapy session in an insane asylum. It goes from 0 to 100 at an incredible pace, and I guarantee you’re going to stick around for the ride; begging to see where her thoughts are going to go next. The more she keeps talking, the worse her persona fades and an evil master plan comes to light. Highlighted against this are reaction shots from Nolan as he plays the husband who’s bound to be mentally scarred after this.
Hang Up! is uncomfortable, unrelenting, and perverse, but I was hooked from the start. Real movie magic makes Hang Up! stand-out as a production, and it gets a mega-boost from the creepy, long monologue from the broken, damaged woman. I can’t tell you what’s said over the phone because I need to avoid spoilers, but it’s literally like getting an entire decade of soap opera plot twists in about six minutes. I could not stop listening, and I think Hang Up! will have the same effect on you. Old school, expertly acted, psychologically captivating, and bizarre, Hang Up! is nothing short of top notch, and it makes me happy to see that true film-making like this still exists in 2018. Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.