Dangerous Calling
by Phil Boatwright

Cloud Ten Pictures Inc. has acquired distribution rights to the thriller Dangerous Calling, produced and directed by Josh and Jeremiah Daws. Cloud Ten, the Christian production and distribution house behind the Left Behind film series, has been steadily adding to its library with independent Christian dramas like The Genius Club, Treasure Blind, The River Within, but Dangerous Calling is Cloud Ten's first foray into the Suspense genre.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A new pastor and his wife stay with a rich widow and her strange son while the parsonage is being repaired. Having lost his previous pastorate due to standing up to controlling members, this new pastor plans on playing the game – doing what the church "bosses" want. But his conscience is soon tested when the rich widow begins dominating every choice addressed. All this sounds like your typical "church" movie. But there's two added ingredients: suspense and murder.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Standing up to this woman, who is a cross between the mother in Carrie and the "mother" in Psycho, the new church assignment proves quite dangerous, as the previous pastor discovered (he is suffocated at the opening). The film does address church politics and pays tribute to prayer and people of faith, but the focus is on the troubling relationships between the new pastor and this maniacal mother and her psycho son.

We've come to accept and expect violent acts in "secular" films, but the blend of B-thriller violent imagery within a story steeped in the message of salvation shifts the tone so drastically that the proceedings never connect with our sensibilities.

I congratulate the Daws brothers for attempting to rejuvenate the church movie genre, but the excess of violence smells of an attempt to be contemporary. We see a man smothered, another killed by a fireplace poker to the noggin; another gets a shotgun blast to the stomach, and a woman is bitten by a rattlesnake, then later nearly drowned. I got the feeling the filmmakers wanted to relate to teens who saw the Saw films and their kind. The incidents, which seem to parrot crimes and misdemeanors found in thrillers such as Psycho and Carrie, are more laughable than suspenseful. Again, this has to do with the abrupt change in tone.

Nothing, including the spiritual moments, rings true and the murderous plots couldn't be more ludicrous if satirized by Will Ferrell. For instance, after she is bitten by a snake (the creepy crawler would have had to slither up two flights of stairs and somehow maneuvered its way onto a king-sized bed), the victim's husband rushes off to a men's retreat. This despite his wounded wife's fears that psycho son is trying to kill her. Perhaps if the contrivance to get her alone would have been more convincingly staged, the conclusion wouldn't have seemed so ridiculous.

The performances are sound as are the technical aspects, but the attempt to be relevant and commercial only stresses how much the entertainment industry has influenced our culture, as well as our church.

DVD Alternative: I'm going to suggest an old film, one in black & white, but The Bishop's Wife addresses similar issues. The premise is somewhat different; an angel aids a struggling minister. But the pastor also has to deal with a controlling woman in the church. I marveled at the ending sermon given by the bishop, played by David Niven. Standing behind his pulpit, the Reverend reminded his parishioners to focus attention on Christ. "All the stockings are filled, except one. We've even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we're celebrating. Don't let us ever forget that. Let us each ask what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share." Wow. Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven star. If you can't handle black & white, try the updated version, The Preacher's Wife with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. Whitney is a one-note actress, but for those who like her music, you won't be disappointed. Denzel is handsome and cool, and Courtney B. Vance is exceptional as the neglecting father and husband. Replete with moral teachings concerning marriage, home life, faith, and the fact that we can make a difference. Very enjoyable. One sad note. The story is about religious people. It takes place at Christmas time. Yet the name Jesus is never mentioned. Ironic, considering most every other movie of this era now uses, or should I say, misuses that name as a mere expletive. Ahhh, Hollywood.

Dangerous Calling is on DVD and now available for church exhibition through Cloud Ten's  Church Cinema (although recommended only for older teens and adults).   It will be distributed domestically on DVD to the secular and Christian markets through E1 Entertainment (www.e1distribution.com), and to all other markets directly by Cloud Ten Pictures.