TUBI EXCLUSIVE: Nightalk (2022)

OK, so confession time. Back in the early 1990s, I often would call a talk line to meet people. It’s how I met my first wife. And it was for the same reason why one of the characters in this movie says he started to use Nightalk. I worked 90 hours a week, I hated going to bars and I was too shy to meet people. When it was just my voice and my mind, I could be as charming as I wanted to be.

Imagine my surprise when this Tubi original was released and it’s not about internet dating but instead, phone lines. What is this, a remake of Party Line? For the record, I am very much in favor of this.

Brenda (Ashley Bryant, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer) is a cop with a troubled past: a short marriage that wasn’t sexually or emotionally fulfilling; a mother who died tragically; a brother who killed himself even more tragically when he couldn’t live up to the expectations of their cop dad; a dad who can’t forgive his dead son or properly grieve for his dead wife. She throws herself into a career as a cop, leaving behind her choice of art history, and we’re a decade into her cop life and the first case she’s in charge of.

Working with her partner Jimmy (Ted Hallett), they investigate the death of a woman who has been erotically asphyxiated. They start to look into her life and learn that she was a user of Nightalk, the same service that Brenda’s best friend Dixie (Emily Andrews).

Brenda’s big cop brainstorm: use the service to find out who the killer is. But along the way — as she related to her therapist (Rena Polley) — she ends up falling for Tom (Al Mukadam), who regales her with dominant — well, not really, more on that in a bit — fantasies while she jills off as Madame Butterfly plays in the background.

But what if Tom is the killer? What if you’d never seen a single 80s erotic thriller and thought, “This is sexy” and Cinemax is a distant memory and you missed out, my friend. That said, this movie made me laugh throughout and even more so when I learned that its director Donald Shebib is in his mid-80s and hasn’t made a movie in a decade. And yes, we’re all getting older by the day, but there’s a difference between getting old and not understanding what you’re making. But who am I to doubt someone who once directed episodes of T and TMy Secret Identity and Street Justice?

I mean, it’s competently made — I could go without the flashes as transitions — but we’re past the time of phone dating, not to mention when you have a smartphone, there’s no need to print everything out nor does anyone stare at their home screen while talking on the phone. This also has the kind of dialogue an old man may write for a young girl to say and for that, we can thank Claude Herz, who is two years older than Shebib. The talk of sexual choking comes off so clinical — yes, I get they’re cops — and so robotic that I’m certain that no human being has ever talked like this.

As for Tom’s fantasies, they are as vanilla as they get. An old fashioned on a subway train while you’re both in shorts? A handyman watching you take a shower? It’s as if no one has ever had an erotic moment in their lives and at the end, when — spoiler — Brenda finally tells Tom that she wants him to be the dominant man of their phone sex, he just gets on top and tells her he loves her and they climax together before going to look at a botanical garden which is…well, kind of far from kink.

What tops that is that these two have been talking on the phone for what seems like a few weeks and when she interrogates him at the station, he doesn’t recognize her voice. Is she that good of a cop? Well, seeing as how she had no idea that she was so close to the killer — is this a giallo? I say that because the least likely person is the murderer and yes, the police are fumbling in the dark — I don’t think she’s all that great of a detective.

But hey, Art Hindle is in it, so I was going to watch it just because I love when he’s in movies. Even though I’m not Canadian, I feel some surge of pride when I see him in films and make sure to have back bacon, a toque and a bottle of maple syrup on hand to properly celebrate him (for better Art Hindle movies, turn to Black ChristmasThe Brood, Winter Comes EarlyThe Octagon and Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

I also loved how when Tom said cock in his fantasy phone sex, it was like he was looking around to see if it was alright for him to say it. For a movie where the lead is supposed to — to paraphrase Trent — find happiness in slavery, the release she actually gets is so non-kinky that it could air on prime time TV. This is the unsexiest movie about sex that I have ever seen and I’ve seen all of the Cannon sex comedies like Hot Chili (and Hot Resort) and made it through multiple viewings of Bolero, so I must be some kind of masochist myself and will now need a Nightalk voice mailbox so I can have people tease me with viewings of even worse and less sexy sexy movies.

Also: This is not ageist. Gregory Dark is 65 and if he wanted to make a new erotic thriller, I would pay thosands of dollars to his Kickstarter.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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