The Call, Netflix’s Korean Horror Movie Explained: That Shocking Sinister Twist Ending
Just when it looked like Netflix will stick to its usual trend of bombarding its subscribers with cheesy Chritsmas flicks, the streaming platform released The Call, a Korean horror film that is nothing short of a masterpiece. But as it relies heavily on the complex concept of alternate universes while putting an ingenious fresh spin on the subgenre. It’s ending gets a bit complicated as bombshell revelations are dropped with the speed of a freight train!
The Story of The Call
The horror drama begins with 28-year Seo-yeon, who revisits her old house after her ailing mother, Eun-ae, is admitted to the hospital because of terminal cancer. While she is concerned for her mother, she still holds her accountable for her father’s death in 1999. It is later revealed that her mother left the gas stove on, which started a fire that killed her husband.
As she lost her cellphone, she sits down to make the old landline work again. This unknowingly triggers a set of events that turns her life upside down. She continuously gets calls from a certain Oh Young-sook who keeps asking for help from her abusive mother, who tortures her and is very strict.
For a while, she starts to avoid them as wrong numbers. But one day, she discovers a hidden basement in her house, and when Young-sook calls again, screaming that her mother is punishing her by burning part of her body, smoke starts coming out from the basement as well. Seo-yeon puts two and two together, coming to the insane yet rather true reality that she and Young-sook are living in the same house and talking to each other via the phone.
They can’t see each other because they live in different time periods. For Young-sook, it’s 1999, but Seo-yeon is living in 2020. This means the phone Young-sook is using is the same one Seo-yeon is using in the present and is working as a conduit connecting the past to the present.
They soon become good friends. So much so that Young-sook risks punishment to save Seo-yeon’s dad in 1999. She meets him and a young Seo-yeon who visited her house in the past to buy it. This changes the present where the latter now gets to live with her very much alive father and a mother who is not dying from cancer. In return for this big favor, Seo-yeon finds out about Young-sook online and discovers that her mother is about to kill her, believing that demons possess her daughter.
While an evil presence does not possess Young-sook, she is indeed a psychopath who has been held captive for years by her mother. After becoming aware of her mother’s plans to kill her, she flies into a rage and brutally murders her. She chops her into pieces, keeping the parts in black plastic bags in the fridge.
Initially, Seo-yeon is unaware of the truth and believes that Young-sook sorted out whatever misunderstanding she had with her mother. But when her childhood friend is erased from existence in front of her eyes as Young-sook kills him in the past for discovering her mother’s body parts, Seo-yeon informs her former friend that in the past, the police discovered that she is a serial killer after they found evidence against her. After Seo-yeon refuses to take her calls anymore, Young-sook, displaying the limits of her insanity, kills Seo-yeon’s father when he visits to check-out her house. She then kidnaps the young Seo-yeon.
As her father dissolves into dust in front of her and her reality shifts yet again, Seo-yeon tries in vain to lure Young-sook to a place that she knew blew up in the past. Failing to kill her friend-turned-serial-killer, Seo-yeon is forced to lead her to the evidence that would have led to her arrest. Thus Young-sook is never caught, and thus she continues her killings. As Seo-yeon’s father died before purchasing her house, she is still living in the same house and storing her victims’ body parts in big refrigerators. The timeline Seo-yeon finds herself in.
The complicated conclusion as the past and the present clash
We get a sense that the past and the present in The Call are just different parts of the same reality. They are basically happening side by side. As the past is still unraveling, Young-sook’s actions lead a harried Eun-ae to her door with a police officer looking for her daughter and husband, who never returned. There is another unique thing about the phone in the past. No matter what number is dialed, the phone will only call 20 years in the future.
When Eun-ae decides to call her husband from the phone, hoping that his cell will ring and lead her to him, she ends up calling Seo-yeon in the present. But even as her daughter’s future self desperately tries to warn her, 1999’s Young-sook kills the officer Eun-ae came with and proceeds to attack her. In the present, the 48-year-old Young-sook attacks Seo-yeon as well.
In 1999, Young-sook lures out Eun-ae by using her captive daughter as bait and wounds her enough to suede her. Just as both the present and past versions of Young-sook inch towards killing the young as well as the present Seo-yeon, Eun-ae, in the past, sacrifices herself. She barrels into Young-sook and jumps from the railing with her to save her daughter.
In the present, the older Young-sook disappears, and a rattled Seo-yeon runs to her father’s grave, fearing that her mother is dead as well. But to her surprise, Eun-ae is alive with visible scars from her encounter with Young-sook 20 years ago. For a moment, it appears that she managed to survive the fall that seemingly killed Young-sook as in the present. The mother-daughter walk away, hand-in-hand. The story then goes into a flashback, depicting a blink-and-you-miss-it scene towards the end.
When Seo-yeon woke up in older Young-sook’s house in the present earlier, the serial killer was shown talking to someone on the phone before she left. It turned out, she called herself in the past. Just like Young-sook’s actions in the past kept altering Seo-yeon’s present, it also continued changing her older self’s reality. She shifted from a life sentence in prison to living in her house instead, in possession of the very phone that linked her younger self to the current Seo-yeon. While it is not shown how her older self finds out that her younger self would soon come face to face with Eun-ae and might get killed in the process, she warned her past-version through the phone, allowing her to make arrangements that ensure that even after she falls off the railing, she doesn’t die.
In the present, Eun-ae disappears suddenly, and Seo-yeon finds herself tied up in her house’s basement — it means that in the past, Young-sook woke up, killed Eun-ae, and recaptured Seo-yeon, who spent her entire life bound and tortured by her former friend. Given the ambiguous ending and the curiously unexplained twists, it appears that there will be a sequel shedding further light on the conclusion and Seo-yeon’s fate.