Adapted from a French series, the show employs minimal graphics (waves and abstract lines, along with the number of word balloons in the dialogue), as the stories unfold in nine episodes, most in less than 20 minutes.
Directed by Fede Álvarez (“Don’t Breathe”), the creepy threads unfold through a series of seemingly unrelated phone calls, with characters involved in stories involving strange and supernatural phenomena. In one, for example, a man calls home after a fight with his wife, not realizing that they spend large amounts of time at the other end of the line during what he perceives as mere minutes.
Each story continues along this line, so it doesn’t feel related, but it joins in unexpectedly. The first and second episodes are quite cleverly titled “The End” and “The Beginning,” which offer a rough roadmap of how everything in the middle could be connected (i.e., the remaining seven). .
Practically speaking, it is a very efficient way to address the concerns of Covid-19 production and certainly a low-impact approach in terms of cost and talent, with the voices of Rosario Dawson, Pedro Pascal, Lily Collins and Clancy Brown among those listed. And the graphics are surprisingly effective at setting the mood, with an independent Spanish version planned for Latin American markets.
“Calls” works in part because it represents a change of pace, based on the idea that the horrors evoked by our imagination often outweigh anything that millions of dollars can visualize in special effects. However, it also talks about the freedom that the great abundance of content platforms allows in terms of playing with formats, especially when done economically.
Of course, the broadcast services perform all sorts of stunts to get attention and there is no denying that this is a bit of a trick. However, during the couple of hours we need to watch / listen to the chapters, “Calls” is an invitation worth answering.
“Calls” premieres on March 19 on Apple TV +.