In Timothy Woodward Jr.’s new film, THE CALL, a group of teens discover the secret world of a sinister couple on the edge of town. It’s a classic premise that dates back to fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel” and beyond, but don’t expect this film to be a retread.
Woodward and his collaborators have created a story that effortlessly reflects our current times. THE CALL addresses the notion of shifting truths and pokes holes into the black and white world we live in with disturbing results.
I spoke with Mr. Woodward about his visual approach, the Halloween season, and working with horror royalty like Lin Shaye and Tobin Bell.
THE CALL is such a wonderfully creative movie. When did you know this was the right project for you to invest in?
Timothy Woodward Jr.: I got the script back in October of 2019. I had already directed Lin [Shaye] in The Final Wish. [Lin’s] manager brought me the script and said “Hey, we want you to direct this. Come on in and help us produce it.”
I was in the middle of production on a TV series for Amazon called Studio City. As soon as I got done with that, I came back [and told them that] this is something I’m extremely interested in and would like to go ahead make it happen ASAP.
That’s so interesting. I didn’t know that you and Lin had such a close relationship. Do you collaborate often?
Timothy Woodward Jr.: We worked together the first time on The Final Wish, which was also with Jeffrey Reddick, the creator of Final Destination. And we just had a really good time on that movie. I was so impressed by what she did. She actually passed on [The Final Wish]. I offered her that role about five times and she passed on me a lot. Then I sent flowers to her manager [with a note that] said, “Thank you for reconsidering considering.”
Finally, she wanted to take me to lunch to let me down again and say no. I ended up convincing her to take one more shot at it, and she’s really glad she did. We had a great relationship, and that movie went well. I’m very happy that they thought about me [for THE CALL].
One thing that really struck me about this film was the beautifully trippy effects that start to appear. What inspired that visual style and how early did you decide on it?
Timothy Woodward Jr.: Pretty early we decided that we were going to do something completely different for the “call world.” [Cinematographer] Pablo Diaz, our production designer Marcus Cato, and I were all having a conversation and I said it has [to have] complete contrast in every way, shape, and form from the real world. We had thought about the idea of this hellish red inside “the call” world. We changed the frame rate to go from twenty-four frames per second to twenty-two. Then we went down to nineteen [frames per second] and [changed] the shutter angle to just give it more of a jittery effect.
In post we added a couple of stabilizers to add effects visually. And then, in the audio mix, I’d done a pre-mix where I’d added a few things and the designers had a couple of ideas [to add] some echo [so] the audio would be delayed a little bit.
It was a collaboration, but I’d say ninety-five percent of it was figured out a little bit before shooting and then during shooting it kind of organically happened.
You have some horror royalty in your cast. Working as a director, there are so many opportunities for an actor to surprise you. Did any of your cast surprise you in a certain take or in the way they approached their characters?
Timothy Woodward Jr.: All through the process there were a lot of things that were happening that were just great. But speaking of royalty, I mean being able to work with Tobin [Bell] and Lin together? That was pretty cool. They’re both extremely talented actors, but it was surprising they had such good chemistry as soon as they got on set. It was instant.
And Tobin Bell’s voice? I’d let him read me a book if he wanted to. He’s got an amazing voice, and he’s just such a powerful actor. He had a scene in THE CALL that was extremely long. I think it’s like fourteen minutes long, but it doesn’t feel that way because he is just so commanding the whole time. [The scene has] tons of dialogue, and he just handled it like a champion.
October is a special time for horror fans. How do you like to celebrate the season?
Timothy Woodward Jr.: Normally I have a graveyard in my front yard that I create with little headstones. We have tons of trick-or-treaters that come by. This year I don’t know what’s going to happen, unfortunately, with the pandemic and what we’re allowed to do and what we’re not allowed to do. But I love Halloween: all these people out together celebrating. I think any time you can celebrate it’s great.
THE CALL is now in theaters and select Drive-In locations. For more information on where you can see the film, click here.