Dial: Help (1988)

If you’re tired of Italian movies about zombies, cannibals, ancient Greeks, and cross-dressing slashers, Dial: Help provides some welcome relief in that it strives to achieve something just a little different. Of course striving to achieve something isn’t exactly the same as actually achieving something since the little twist put on things here is that instead of a fashion model being harassed by a guy in a wimpy beard or demented family member, she is being stalked by her telephone!

Wait! Where are you going? Haven’t you ever had problems with your phone? Don’t you see how you could extrapolate the everyday reliance and natural fear of a telephone into a full blown Italian horror movie?

This movie didn’t even address the readily apparent threat that cell phones pose, though it did show us why the rotary phone was banned by the U.N. in 1991. (It turns out that demonic forces could shoot the rotary portion of the phone through the air like some sort of deadly boomerang!)

The scariest part of the movie is how seriously everyone takes things. How many of you, even after all sorts of crazy things have happened including the deaths of several of your friends, would be able to announce “I think my telephone is trying to kill me” without laughing your ass off?

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So, just how in the world did English fashion model Jenny get herself haunted by her phone? That would turn out to be part of the genius of the movie. You see, it was never explained why this was happening to her or who it was that was doing it!

Jenny (Charlotte Lewis) does have a friend who plays in a band at night and who just happens to work for the Italian phone company by day, so he spends his time checking out her phone and her connection down in the strangely-lit switching station located in the subway system.

I’m not an engineer or anything, so I didn’t really register what he was babbling about when he was diagnosing the problem, but it probably had something to do with an overloaded trunk or a power surge in the relay node or something like that.

He may have also asked her something like “you don’t have any unresolved emotional issues with the spirits of some dead relatives, do you?” Whatever it was, it was probably going to require some type of service call and who’s got time to sit at home for the repair guy when you’ve got to do a photo shoot with your gal pal photographer?

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The movie does establish that these calls are coming from an abandoned building where a bunch of recording machines and doves are. And even though it clearly hasn’t been used for years, some janitor shows up to answer a phone there and gets killed by the telephone cords.

We would be taken back to the evil telephone’s secret hideout whenever the telephone struck someone close to Jenny. And bear in mind that this telephone is so powerful that it even controls the ceiling fan in its hideout!

Since this is an Italian movie about a fashion model getting stalked, there are some death scenes that probably ought to be recounted. If you’re wondering how a telephone kills people, then you’ve obviously never considered what would happen if a pay phone suddenly went crazy and starting firing all its coins back at someone’s face!

The phone’s most amazing power was when it tried to force Jenny’s irritating neighbor to jump off the apartment building. It wasn’t successful, but it did manage to short out the pacemaker of a professor who studies phenomena like possessed telephones and was going to help Jenny out.

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The phone was also able to make Jenny really horny and forced her to take the climatic bath in her underwear that the movie is no doubt celebrated for. Just after she got out of the bath, the telephone jumped into it in a vain attempt to kill her!

That was pretty funny, but the funniest bit in the whole movie was when we saw the phone actually stalking Jenny’s photographer friend. Director Ruggero Deodato must have known on some level how stupid it all was because he kept those shots pretty short, but you can see this phone moving along the floor! Even better is one of those shots from the phone’s viewpoint that is standard issue in these slasher movies!

Everything is resolved when Jenny finally talks on the phone to the caller and says that she loves them and this sets them free and we see all the doves fly out of the window of the phone’s secret headquarters. I never did figure out who these spirits were, why they were trapped, or what Jenny had to do with anything, but then again my phone number is unlisted, so I don’t get a lot of calls from the after life.

After this movie, Deodato (Jungle Holocaust, Concorde Affaire ’79, The Raiders Of Atlantis) only made two more movies and apparently drifted into Italian TV. However, I would note that one of the only two movies he made after this one was titled The Washing Machine! Dare we hope that someday the trilogy will be completed with a film about a deranged toilet?

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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