My favorite Christian rock band is U2. Yeah, I’m not into Christian rock. But I appreciate good music, and if the band is Christian (or, in U2’s case, three-quarters Christian), that’s fine. Not all of U2’s music has a religious message, but the songs that have one don’t beat you over the head with it. Not being a religious person, I appreciate that.
Something similar can be said of “Dangerous Calling,” which stars Christian characters and was marketed to churchgoers but is actually a thriller that just happens to revolve around a church. Just like I’m not into Christian rock, I can’t say I’m into Christian movies, but I do like good films, and this is one of them. It’s not on par with major studio releases, but the quality is certainly comparable to a well-executed made-for-TV movie. There are some flaws, though, and I’ll get to those in a minute, along with the stuff I liked.
The Daws brothers drew from personal experience as pastor’s kids to craft a tale of church politics gone deadly wrong. (Obviously, they took their parents’ experiences to an extreme to make a point.) “Dangerous Calling” follows Pastor Evan Burke and his wife Nora as he takes over a church whose previous pastor died suddenly. The identity of the murderer is clear from the very beginning: Elijah, the son of zealous church member Miss Pat. Elijah lives with his mother, and Evan and Nora stay with them while waiting for the rectory to be restored.
Elijah begins behaving in a creepy manner around Nora, but we’re not sure if his mother knows what he did to the previous pastor. That question helps enhance the suspense during the first two acts, and its answer fuels the escalating tension in act three. The story moves along at a brisk pace, although I had trouble accepting some of the story beats in act three, particularly the moment when Evan decides to leave the conference he is attending, all because of some information he learns. Similarly, his behavior upon seeing bubbling on the surface of the lake didn’t make much sense. I’m going to leave those sentences vague to avoid spoiling anything.
Some of the physical action in act three is also awkward, particularly a couple moments where characters are struggling with each other and it’s obvious the actors are holding back. That’s to be expected, however, from a low-budget film where it wasn’t possible to put the actors through extensive training. It and Evan’s act three behavior certainly aren’t fatal flaws.
The acting is consistently solid, with Jackie Prucha (Miss Pat) and Brandon O’Dell (Elijah) delivering standout performances. Prucha does an excellent job of channeling Margaret from Stephen King’s novel “Carrie.”
All of the main cast members participated in the supplemental features on this DVD, including an actors’ commentary track and a 26-minute making-of featurette. Jeremiah and Josh Daws, who co-wrote and co-directed the movie, participated in that commentary as well as a separate track featuring just them. That commentary is more interesting than the one with the actors, which tends to be heavy on the chit-chat and the “Remember when…” anecdotes. When talking between themselves, the Daws brothers impart a lot of interesting information about shooting on a small budget and how they approached everything from setting up shots to storytelling decisions. There’s a lot of good information in there for low-budget filmmakers to absorb.
This disc also includes: a short piece on the Daws brothers’ parents, who were the inspiration for Evan and Nora; a small group curriculum; about two minutes of deleted footage, with optional commentary by the Daws brothers; the “Dangerous Calling” trailer; and two of the Daws brothers’ short films. There’s also an Easter egg in the special features menu.