As confirmed lovers of vintage Americana, my wife and I have two working 1940s rotary telephones that are absolute pips; you just can’t replicate the craftsmanship that went into mass-producing these treasures of Times Past. But…Sometimes late in the evening, just before drifting off and doing a mean Balboa or Samba with Little Nemo in Slumberland, we’ll get an unplanned call from some ne’er-do-well. The abrupt and pronounced ringing of our 1940s Bakelite Western exclaiming that we have a phone caller never fails to wake us from our revelrie in the sort of a way that its cellular offspring is incapable of. The ring, at once musical and shrill, always makes my old ticker jump at least a foot, an effect that sustains until I can groggily reach the receiver and proceed to stab said late-night caller with copious tonal daggers. But it’s in the moment before I can reach the telephone – when the incessant ringing of the telephone is at its peak – that a feeling of dread always steals over me: What if I were to pick up that old receiver and the only thing greeting me from the other mysterious end is dead air or, even worst, a menacing heavy breathing?
Apparently, this sensitive scribbler of words is not the only one who has a love-hate affair with the classic rotary telephone: By way of New York Central Railroad Company and courtesy of those gremlins at Bloody Disgusting comes the telegram that director Matt Reeves – currently doing time and hard labor in Merry Ol’ England making a little art-house flick called The Batman – is digging out his old Bell telephone books for a period horror film called Switchboard.
Switchboard is a spec script-made good by scribe Devon Graye and revolves around a young switchboard operator in the late 1940s. Apparently, that hot cup of A&P Coffee staves off everything except for potential paranormal mashers for this poor gal; she begins taking telephone calls from a very-much active serial killer who forces her to question her own sanity, let alone the very nature of her own shaky reality.
Devon Graye is white hot coming off of writing the film I See You which featured the considerable acting chops of Helen Hunt. Matt Reeves is opting to produce rather than direct Switchboard. Joining Reeves in racking up producing credits for this new film will be Mr. Horror Pedigree himself, Steven Schneider (Paranormal Activity) along with Armaan Zorace, director of the upcoming film Wraith. Also upping for Switchboard producing duty are Rafi Crohn (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Margot Hand (Brittany Runs a Marathon) and Joshua Thurston (Permission). The new film will be delivered through production house Dark Hall, a new upstart that plies its wares in the world of the creepy and the supernatural. No word as of yet on the director for the film.
The “telephone spells trouble” trope has been used to rather good effect in the past: An often overlooked little movie that came out back in 2011 from director Matthew Parkhill titled The Caller was a chilling time travel ghost story with a vicious bite. Going even further back, writer Rod Serling explored this eerie landscape in his seminal television series The Twilight Zone not once, but twice: In a 1961 episode called Long Distance Call and then again in ’64 with a Richard Matheson story by the name of Night Call. Here’s hoping that Switchboard can evoke some of the best chills from this particular pocket-genre.
Vents will update you on any new details on Switchboard as they become known to us. Now if you’ll excuse me: Even though it’s quite late, my telephone will not stop ringing…