When a Stranger Calls
Rated PG-13; Directed by Simon West; Starring Camilla Belle, Tommy Flanagan, Tessa Thompson
Oh my. I remember when the first version of “When a Stranger Calls” showed in theatres. The first half hour was one of the scariest things I’d ever seen. Back in 1979 Carol Kane was the poor babysitter getting all those creepy phone calls. The phrase “Have you checked the children?” sent chills up my spine. Of course, that was the first half hour of the movie. I couldn’t tell you what the rest of the movie was about, but boy, what a tense beginning to a movie.
In this newest retelling the writers decided to concentrate on that first 30 minutes and stretch it out to a full movie. What was once a nice tight sequence in a mediocre film becomes a dull, drawn-out case of the boredoms in a bad film. Not only that, we get every cliché in the book – a spooky house at night, a cat that spooks the heroine, and no sense of logic or common sense. Don’t think too hard about what happens in the movie, because it will only hurt the brain – there is no sense to this story.
The movie begins with a horrific unseen killing in a town. We next meet Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle) who not only has to face the heartbreak of her boyfriend caught kissing one of her best friends, but also the horror of having her cell phone privileges taken away – she went way over her minutes. To top things off, on the night when her high school is having its big event (sort of a burning man kind of thing), her parents are forcing poor Jill to babysit. Way out of town. In a palacial designer house. With big windows. With lights that go on and off by themselves. Oh, and there’s a black cat too.
Needless to say, Jill gets some very weird calls that spook her. Somehow, somebody is watching her and making all kinds of things go bump in the night. How the villain found this place, knew there’d be a babysitter, and got all the phone numbers is not explained. Oh wait, I’m thinking again. Must.Turn.Off.Brain.
The performances are what you expect in a movie like this. The young heroine’s hair and makeup stayed in place throughout the film.
I’d rent the original film and watch the babysitting sequence before spending money to watch this wretched take on the story.