A man has his world destroyed in a matter of minutes, as an errant phone call reveals the ultimate betrayal in the excellent horror short “Hang Up!”
Hang Up! is a short film written and directed by Richard Powell, who is best known for the films Heir and Familiar. Although it is short, the emotions generated by this film are deep-reaching and potent, capable of leaving audiences disturbed.
The story starts with a silly mistake. Gary (Robert Nolan), is working in his office one afternoon when his phone rings. The audience can determine it is a woman, and director Powell uses placed pictures on Gary’s desk to let us deduce it is his wife, Emelia, who has accidentally called him. After answering the phone, he realizes that she is talking to someone. Emelia (Astrida Auza) is in a serious discussion with a woman, Mona (Jane Pokou).
Gary listens in for a few moments, bewildered by Emelia’s manner, and enters a voyeuristic ordeal as the conversation between the two women turns ominous. This discussion changes everything Gary knows about his spouse, their marriage, and their young daughter.
Powell uses sharp camera adjustments and fixed reflections of Gary and his wife’s picture/avatar on his phone to set up scenes of increasing dread and agony.
Emelia never appears in the short; instead, the audience observes her image on the phone and via the few assorted photos in Gary’s office. Her voice carries the substance of the film, as she is recounting the full storyline.
Even though Emelia’s voice sounds like a distressed middle-aged wife, her mood shifts into one of the most malevolent people I have ever heard in any film. Her dialogue is the central focus of the film, and it spins into a jaw-dropping performance by Auza.
This film lasts only a brief fourteen minutes, but it robbed my breath and sent my heart racing.
It is a barbarous take on marriage and how the psychological facets of devotion and lust can distort an individual’s mind. Who is at fault is vague. Is Emelia so ardently broken for being miserable that she is mentally ill? Or has she been suppressing a rampaging beast for years?
Whether Emelia plans to do what she reveals is left to the observer to answer. Is she evil or drunk? Could she be blowing off steam, or simply infuriated from her loveless marriage? The film leaves hints but is not definitive to that answer.
Powell does an amazing job with the look of the movie, using black and white film to deepen the intensity of Emelia’s vitriol.
Gary’s countenance collapses as his entire world is torn into fragments, turning to rage as Emelia reveals more of her plans. The film ends with a bit of mystery. The viewers are like Gary — left feeling terrified and sickened by Emelia’s dark mind.
After viewing the film a second time, I was left feeling ill and unnerved.
The most chilling aspect of the film is the thought that Gary could’ve just hung up the phone and never heard the whole dialogue. Hang Up! is an amazing film, even with a few mysteries and unknowns left behind. It delivers one of the best, purely sociopathic characters I have ever encountered.
This movie will haunt you.