Dial: Help (1988)

Jenny (Charlotte Lewis, The Golden Child) is a model who has just broken up with her boyfriend and expects him to call her back. Somehow, she gets connected to an abandoned lonely hearts phoneline, which is populated by the dead souls of its former operators, all of whom know how to use telephones from beyond to kill people in some truly innovative and completely insane ways.

Who can we thank for such magic? Ruggero Deodato, that’s who. Here, he’s working from a story by Franco Ferrini, who wrote the Argento films PhenomenaSleepless and Opera.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m a huge Deodato fan. Cannibal HolocaustBody CountLive Like a Cop, Die Like a Man? He knows how to make a movie.

Let me tell you, this movie looks gorgeous. There’s nothing like the colors and look of Italian genre cinema to make me happy. And I love how over the top this movie gets — which is somehow about a phone line for people who had their hearts broken, which has since been abandoned but all of the operators are dead and can reach out from the other side to kill people.

Oh yeah — somehow these ghosts are able to hypnotize Jenny into putting on her finest lingerie and writhing in a bathtub. Because, um, art?

Anyways, the ghosts all live in the abandoned phone line office, which is now filled with pigeons and cobwebs and phones that like to kill cleaning women.

This movie is basically about phones killing people. A payphone shoots quarters at people like bullets. The sound from a phone rips a guy’s pacemaker right out of its chest. And phone cords lynch friends and slice them apart. This is the fate the telemarketers that bother me so often should endure.

All this blood and mayhem is set to a Claudio Simonetti soundtrack. None of it makes any sense, but who cares? It’s more fun than any movie I’ll see in the theater this year and between the colors and camerawork, it’s an impossibly striking piece of film.

Lewis also makes for a perfect Italian horror heroine. She never did much horror other than this film and Embrace of the Vampire, a sleazy slice of direct to VHS junk that burned up the rental shelves thanks to scenes with Alyssa Milano interacting with Lewis.

You can get this from Revok, but here’s hoping for a major release from Severin.

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