When a movie changes its name almost at the on sought, you know there's a problem and when that happens, you can almost guarantee that it's a hot mess.
I'm just going to entitle this movie Sybil since it shows up in different forms as Crisis Hotline and Shadows in Mind and probably in the near future it may take on another name, but we'll see.
The premise of the film is good: Simon (Corey Jackson) is a crisis hotline counselor who's been at his job for a week and he's upset that he hasn't seen any "action" while manning the phone.
After he makes this bold statement to angry lesbian Julia (Laura Altair) she pretty much tells him that he has to do his job just as she's ending her shift and after hanging up on her last caller who keeps calling as if the hotline were a phone sex number. She leaves and Simon spends the next few minutes talking to a trans woman about insurance problems and playing solitaire.
Once the twenty minutes are up, the phone rings again and it's the voice of Danny (Christian Gabriel) who tells him that he's taken a couple of pills and he's going to commit suicide. After he kills his boyfriend, Kyle and Kyle's employers, Lance and Christian.
Great- now we have the hook for the movie (I think it's half an hour into it) and the story should start to unfold in (yawn) suspense.
Through flashbacks, Danny tells Simon that he's somewhat new in town and was lonely when he went to a dating app. He just wanted to meet people and only one person had responded to his profile. Kyle.
Slowly, he and Kyle (Pano Tsaklas) form a relationship and when Kyle invites Danny over to his apartment, he's dumbfounded by the size of it and wishes that he could afford something like this. Actually, Kyle's apartment is pretty cool and probably the only thing worth raving about in the movie, but let's continue with the relationship and not real estate dealings.
Danny asks Kyle specifically what he does for a living, even though he's told him that he's a computer programmer. Kyle tells him that he works for a couple "who have many websites" and that they pay him well.
Have you figured where the movie is now headed?
One night, Kyle takes Danny over to Lance and Christian's (August Browning and Christopher Fung respectively) and they decide to bring out the crack pipe. Uncomfortable with what's about to happen, Danny wants to leave but Kyle talks him into staying. He tells Danny that he doesn't do meth (well, every now and then) and he admits that he has had sex with his employers.
Kyle admits that he gets more turned on watching his employers have sex and then Danny agrees to stay.
Throughout the film, there are cuts back to Simon and he calls in what I assume is the shift supervisor, Curtis (Mike Mizwicki) and he listens in on the conversation. At this point, Simon doesn't know what to do and Curtis just tells him to keep talking since this might be someone playing a joke on the hotline.
One night, Danny explains, he and Kyle were invited to Lance and Christian's for dinner and Kyle was surprised that there was another man there, Forrest (Michael Champlin). Kyle is adamant because he was told that Forrest wasn't going to be there and when he helps clear the table, Forrest tells Danny that he can help him out too.
Now, I wouldn't want to spoil anything else, but I'm sure you know where this is all heading and the movie just gets worse from there.
As I said, the premise is great, but I can't figure out where the movie goes wrong.
In an episode of the reality show Scream Queens (2008) and the documentary Rewind This! (2013) it is brought up that most people will rent a movie based on the cover art and tagline, but both are misleading here. I was led to believe that there was going to be some type of race through the city as Danny kills people one by one.
Secondly, the story takes way too long to even get started and the characters are not really developed. I think the only truly developed character was Julia and right off the bat you hate her. She's gone, end of story.
I truly hated everyone of these characters and Simon has to be the one who I probably hated the most. As a hotline counselor, he needed to show empathy, but you don't get that from him or Curtis, and for a change, writer/director Mark Schwab could have gone in another direction by not putting the characters into the Ken doll mold of "beauty." I'm sure a more believable story could have originated.
If you look at past LGBT horror/suspense movies, there's a story that starts to unfold within the first ten minutes and then you're hooked.
Hellbent (2004) deals with a serial killer prior to Halloween (although in that movie, an explanation is never given, nor a sequel) and the same with October Moon (2005) in which the main character falls in love and becomes obsessed with his boss.
Maybe one day Schwab will make a truly suspenseful movie but until that time, we're left with this.