Weird series Calls brings terrifying phone convos to Apple TV+

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New audio-intensive Apple TV+ show Calls leaves a lot to the imagination.
New audio-intensive Apple TV+ show Calls leaves a lot to the imagination.
Image: Apple TV+

Calls, the new thriller coming to Apple TV+, will depend on ears instead of eyes to get hearts pounding.

The oddball series “masterfully uses only audio and minimal abstract visuals to tell bone-chilling snackable stories,” Apple said in a description of the Calls trailer posted Wednesday.

Still, Calls will pack plenty of star power. However, the series’ 12-minute episodes will depend on the voices of people like Nick Jonas and Lily Collins rather than their familiar faces.

The show, adapted from a critically successful French television series of the same name, sounds thematically closer to a classic radio drama than a modern TV show. The intent seems to be to re-create the intense “theater of the mind” evoked by audio broadcasts.

In the Calls trailer, which you can see (and, more importantly, hear) below, speech and audio effects loom large. You hear plenty of static, feedback and tense music as the show’s doom-tinged calls transpire.

Luckily, transcriptions appear on-screen to make sure you understand who’s saying what. Meanwhile, the spare visuals look like a cross between vintage arcade game Qix and a bunch of fetal sonograms.

See for yourself:

A horror show about phone calls

Apple describes Calls as “a show unlike any you’ve seen or heard before.” Judging from the first trailer, that seems pretty apt (unless you saw the French version).

Here’s more from the Apple TV+ description of Calls, as seen on its YouTube channel:

Based on the buzzy French series of the same name, Calls is a groundbreaking immersive television experience that masterfully uses only audio and minimal abstract visuals to tell bone-chilling snackable stories. Launching in a binge model worldwide, all nine 12-minute episodes are told through a series of phone calls that use sharp writing, compelling voice talent and graphics to aid in transcribing the darkly dramatic conversations onto the screen. These relatable scenarios transport the audience into familiar situations that quickly become surreal with thrilling and frightening moments. Featuring Lily Collins, Rosario Dawson, Mark Duplass & more, Calls proves that the real terror lies in one’s interpretation of what they cannot see on the screen and the unsettling places one’s imagination can take them.

Calls comes to Apple TV+

Cupertino signed a deal for Calls back in 2018. At the time, French filmmaker Timothée Hochet — who created the original series as well as the Apple TV+ adaptation — explained his unusual approach to making a creepy show with minimal visuals.

“I wanted to show that, particularly in the horror or thriller genre, that it’s possible to do something interesting and stressful without any pictures or visuals,” Hochet said. “I think it’s better to hide what’s frightening … in horror.”

Calls is a co-production of Apple TV+ and French network Canal+. The show lands on the Apple TV+ subscription service on March 19. It will join such heart-pounding fare as M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy Servant and tense spy thriller Tehran.

Calls is not yet rated.