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First Time Caller: Film Review

Abe Goldfarb & J.D. Brynn’s First Time Caller is a chilling and enthralling one-room thriller that takes its micro-budget to the absolute limit.


In the age of social media, misinformation and ignorance have found themselves growing stronger. Empathy has become a weakness, and acceptance is an act of radicalism. The truth is distorted by those who trade their own perceived knowledge of the world for financial gain in someone’s anger. Turning our arrogance into profit can be a lucrative effort, but what happens when all that catches up with you in the face of something surreal? Abe Goldfarb and J.D. Brynn’s First Time Caller is a one-room thriller following an ignorant soul rocked by a troubling truth

First Time Caller follows Brent Ziff (Abe Goldfarb), the host of “Brent Free”, a live show built off his own brand of cocky ignorance. During one regular night, things quickly turn surreal when Brent takes a call from Leo “Shorty” Short (Brian Silliman), a long-time listener with a foreboding message. 

Brent Ziff is a man fuelled by ignorance and a misplaced idea of cockiness. At the core of this character is a man deeply obsessed with the idea of being someone’s source of anger. By living rent-free in a person’s head, Ziff gets to be at the centre of attention no matter what. The internet is a space fuelled by anger now more than ever, and yet, it’s rare even to know when someone is being truthful in their ignorance or simply making a profit from the outrage-fuelled world. First Time Caller is not the first topical thriller tackling the social media age. Still, it is the first to indeed do so in an unreserved and unapologetically ambitious manner, thanks to the committed lead performance from Abe Goldfarb. 

a still from First Time Caller
First Time Caller (Bondit Media Capital / Buffalo 8)

First Time Caller is a real-time thriller that packs a lot in its short runtime. At 75 minutes, directors Abe Goldfarb and J.D. Brynn waste no time getting into the meat of its story. As soon as we’re dropped into the film, we do so with this obnoxious lead character and an uneasy feeling of what is coming next. Wisely, despite the short runtime, First Time Caller isn’t keen to give you all of the answers at once. As our lead character navigates through his scepticism with this creepy caller, our journey with him is legitimately fascinating. As quickly as questions are introduced, we have answers, which in turn lead to more questions. For a film with so little at its disposal, it’s incredibly impressive how far First Time Caller takes its thrilling premise.

Having an incredibly obnoxious character take centre stage can be tricky for audiences to get behind as the emotional barrier is a lot higher than you’d expect for the average protagonist. Still, everything just clicks together when balanced with a genuinely fascinating script that slowly dishes out its intrigue with a confident hand. You might not like the lead character within this story but it’s what the story has to offer that will keep you around beyond the opening credits. First Time Caller isn’t the first topical thriller taking down the social media age, but it’s perhaps one of the most unique we’ve had simply because of its ambition. Social media horror films have often wrapped all their satirical observations around one character that usually leans towards the obnoxious side. While First Time Caller has this and then some, it goes beyond that cliche to tell a Shyamalan-inspired story that isn’t afraid to take some swings. 

First Time Caller: Trailer (Bondit Media Capital / Buffalo 8)

It sometimes struggles to reach beyond its micro-budget with some cheap visuals and overall design, but First Time Caller is a uniquely ambitious microfilm. Abe Goldfarb plays this obnoxious and politically abstract grifter to the most cynical degree but never veers over the line where the surreal emotion is lost. At a time when many high-budget films can fail to impress, First Time Caller is a fun and unique breath of fresh air. It might not reach the heights of a big-budget thriller by M. Night Shyamalan, but it has the ambition and excitement of some of his absolute best. With a potentially more significant budget, this creative directorial team has a bright future ahead.


First Time Caller debuts on Cable and Digital VOD on January 12, 2024, including Prime Video, Vudu, Vubiquity, Cox, and Comcast.

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