Why IS Oscar winner Halle Berry in this hackneyed hunk of horror?  I know it’s a slow time of year, when all the worst films are released– some worse than others. I went hoping for the best and while not the worst (they could have had the gorgeous Ms. Berry running around in her underwear, dripping with sweat, at a 911 call center because there’s a heat wave and the air conditioning goes out and her clothes have all shrunk in the drier) this is pretty darn close. The plot is a thinly-veiled ripoff of “The Silence of the Lambs” minus the people eater–and the intrigue, suspense, surprise, complexity, character development, mordant wit, originality, and shell shocking horror. But very few films achieve all that after all. So what do I want? Well, some semblance of an effort.

A beautiful call center operator -Jordan Turner gets a 911 call that goes bad. The young girl at the end of the line is being threatened by an intruder, and is ultimately murdered while Jordan  hears her screams over the phone, helpless to rescue the girl. Six months later another young girl, Casey Welson — Abigail Breslin– finds herself in the trunk of a car driven by this same wacko and calls 911. Jordan (now teaching while walking around the building trailing students, presumably to add movement and energy to the shot) intercepts the call from a novice operator and needs to save the girl and her own psyche still traumatized from the “bad call” six months earlier. OK. A reasonable if superficially assembled premise.

There’s a tense freeway chase which is pretty effective-and actually a pretty good “how-to” if you’re ever locked in a trunk– until the whole thing ends up in a dungeon, with wigs, dummies, photos of a cancer victim and a creepy little boy, an even creepier big boy (a twitchy “Psycho” played by Michael Eklund) and of course Halle.

Then all lunacy–common to the genre– breaks out. Despite the fact that the police are minutes away– and one of the cops is her boyfriend (Morris Chestnut)– Halle does NOT place the call. Instead, she sets out alone, at night, armed with only with a flashlight, and discovers within minutes of her outing, clues the police wouldn’t have missed unless they’d had their brains surgically removed. The ending is ludicrous, and not even sickly satisfying.

So if you’re tempted to see THE CALL– call 911.