Underrated Horror Remake: “When a Stranger Calls” (2005)

My choice for underrated film is the remake of When a Stranger Calls. The film tells the story of Jill Johnson, a young teenage girl who is being forced to babysit as a way to pay back her parents for her high cell phone bill. When Jill’s father drops her off, they are both in awe at the sight of the house she’d be babysitting in. Very large, with very large windows. Before the parents leave, Jill is told that the children are asleep upstairs. As the night wears on, Jill starts to receive really freaky phone calls. Eventually Jill has the calls traced, and it’s revealed the calls are coming from inside the house. Can Jill safely get herself and the sleeping children out of the house? Or will all three become victims of this murderous psychopath?

I can understand the hate to an extent, Camilla Belle’s acting is definitely not the greatest, and yes it does have an overload of “cheap scares”. However, I very much love this movie more than the original, mostly for the fact that this actually sticks to the original legend for mostly the whole film after all the introductions. The original sticks to it for a whole fifteen minutes or so before straying off to a boring as hell plot about the detective trying to catch The Stranger. What I also loved about this film is that is has an excellent setting and atmosphere. As well as some great suspense and build up to the final sequence. As I watched the movie the first time I felt just as trapped as Jill, despite it being a huge house. I was really with Jill the whole time, even to the point of when she has to decide whether to get out of the house right away, or go upstairs and get the children. The final 20 minutes kept me on edge the whole time when I first saw this in theaters. Yes, I even admit I jumped a couple of times during the time period. So despite many cheap jump scares, and the not-so-solid acting by Ms. Belle, I extremely enjoyed this little thriller of a film.

–Cody Landman


Just Hang Up: “When a Stranger Calls” (2005) Review

On one side of town, a babysitter and the kids she is watching are brutally murdered. The police are disgusted as it is implied that the murderer used his bare hands to rip them to shreds. The film then changes to teenager Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle). She is going through average teenage crises, having her boyfriend, Bobby (Brian Geraghty), cheat on her with her best friend Tiffany (Katie Cassidy), and going over 800 minutes on her cell phone, for which her dad, Ben (Clark Gregg), is making her babysit for a rich family to pay the debt. This causes her to miss a school bonfire, which her friend, Scarlett (Tessa Thompson), is attending. She arrives at the exquisite and elaborate Mandrakis House, perched upon a lake with a maid and a greenhouse built in the center.

The parents (Derek de Lint and Kate Jennings Grant) show her around and tell her their numbers, stating that they won’t be back until midnight. The kids are upstairs asleep and it should be an easy night for Jill. Jill begins the night by snooping and trying on Mrs. Mandrakis’ jewelry, in other words, being a bitchy teenage brat. She then starts receiving anonymous phone calls; she first dismisses them. The calls soon to be too much and poor Jill is threatened with her life. Will she make it out of the night alive?

Once in a great while I will watch a movie that completely surprises me. One that comes out of nowhere to be a bit of rousing entertainment. One that is pure fun from beginning to end. Well folks, “When A Stranger Calls” is NOT that movie. It is an unbelievably stupid and far fetched remake of the much better 1979 horror camp classic. Our lead heroine Jill is forced to babysit after going over her cell phone minutes and is harassed by telephone calls from a mysterious caller. Every cliche in the world is used here from the stupid cat-jumping-out-of-a-hidden-spot to the car that won’t start. This movie is bad…not even bad in a “so bad it’s good way” more in a “so bad it’s boring way.” Skip this godawful film and save your movie for something else. You’ll thank me later, trust me on this.

Buy it here…if you dare: When a Stranger Calls