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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.45%
Worth A Look: 4.6%
Average: 17.24%
Pretty Bad: 25.29%
Total Crap49.43%

9 reviews, 33 user ratings

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When a Stranger Calls (2006)
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by EricDSnider

"When a stranger calls, you should ask him if he's upstairs."
3 stars

There's one creepy twist in "When a Stranger Calls," but you already know what it is. You know it from seeing the 1979 film this is a remake of, or from hearing the oft-told campfire story that uses it, or from watching the film's trailer or TV commercials that give it away. The calls, it seems, are coming from inside the house!!

With that spine-tingling bit of information already common knowledge among viewers, you'd assume the movie has more to offer beyond that one "surprise." And you would be wrong. Indeed, that revelation comes 60 minutes into the 86-minute movie, and all that follows it is the obligatory running and chasing and screaming. No further twists, no additional scenarios for the heroine to escape from, not even the post-trauma scenes that the 1979 version had. This is a film with one idea, and everyone has already heard it.

It is the tale of a babysitter named Jill (Camilla Belle) who is tormented by menacing phone calls while she tends two nameless children in a huge lakeside house. You can tell the entire story in about five minutes, which means the additional screen time is padding: Jill's best friend was caught kissing Jill's boyfriend; Jill is in trouble with her dad for going over on her cell phone minutes; Jill is missing out on a big bonfire party tonight.

Director Simon West ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider") lays everything out systematically. Jill gets a tour of the house early on, so we know its secrets: It has lights that turn on automatically when you enter a room, a remote-control fireplace, and several other features that will surely prove useful later on, wink wink. The screenplay (by Jake Wade Wall) spins its wheels for a while, interspersing the phone calls from the stranger with calls from the boyfriend and the best friend, and the ominous musical score works overtime to convince us that we're being terrified even though (technically) nothing is happening.

When the truth finally comes out, the film kicks into high gear, and the climax is admirably exciting and suspenseful. For that matter, hearing a stranger ask "Have you checked the children?" over the phone is pretty creepy, too, even when you know it's coming.

But the bare-bones story simply can't survive being stretched to a feature-length running time, and Camilla Belle is not nearly as charismatic an actress as she would need to be to carry this movie by herself. She's in almost every frame, yet she never registers as a real person whose safety we should fear for. There might be terror out there, but it's not coming from inside the movie.

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originally posted: 02/03/06 19:03:08
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Horror Remakes: For more in the Horror Remakes series, click here.

User Comments

7/21/20 Charles Tatum I can go online to look at chicks in tight clothes! 1 stars
6/20/20 Bents A few well shot frames...but pretty boring 2 stars
2/21/17 morris campbell some scares otherwise same old same old 3 stars
3/23/16 David H. Pointless, predictable, and overdone 1 stars
1/12/15 Jay Five stars for the exquisite Camilla Belle, an underappreciated and rare gem. 5 stars
10/18/07 Beau It had a freaky vibe to it, i like Camilla belle! it was suspensful! good thriller 4 stars
3/11/07 Bee You can't call it a thriller just because you have creepy music and cat jokes/ 3 stars
2/16/07 Axel Leos Stupid careless babysitter that lets a stranger inside the house intentionally 1 stars
1/13/07 David Pollastrini I liked it better than the original 4 stars
11/10/06 American Slasher Goddess Another crappy, bland remake. 1 stars
10/30/06 Roger Wilks It could have been better, but overall it was a pretty good thriller. 4 stars
10/03/06 Kaylin I actually found this thrilling and freaky. 4 stars
9/30/06 Stanley Thai VERY suspenseful. I'm not being genrous. This thriller doesn't rely on violence and gore. 3 stars
7/28/06 Indrid Cold Maybe I'm off base, but I actually found it moderately thrilling. 3 stars
6/18/06 Danny Not EVEN suspensful. Stupid and boring. 1 stars
6/05/06 misty Great movie. 5 stars
5/29/06 Chad Anderson SUCKS ASS!!!!!! 1 stars
5/17/06 Paddy I felt like i'd had 87 minutes of my life stolen - AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE! 1 stars
4/06/06 Anthony Feor Another terrible remake 2 stars
4/01/06 Jasmine A Terrific Movie! 5 stars
3/30/06 CeCe Okay,But it coulda been a lot better 3 stars
3/09/06 Dk A weak thriller that was pathetic from start to finish 1 stars
2/23/06 janyce taylor it had a slow beginning and it really led up to nothing. 2 stars
2/15/06 Hi MOM! I havent even seen it and its total crap! 1 stars
2/13/06 Quigley when I was laughing my head off through the "intense" scenes, I knew this was good comdey 1 stars
2/13/06 yomomma not as bad as paint drying but not as good either 3 stars
2/09/06 Keith Traynor One word: total crap 1 stars
2/07/06 karla glisson wasnt bad,but could have been better 3 stars
2/07/06 Sean D THE WORST MOVIE THAT I'VE EVER SEEN!!! 1 stars
2/06/06 Anthony Feor Not good and not bad, but too predictible 3 stars
2/05/06 Evil Wolfie Too much build up not enough pay off 2 stars
2/04/06 Anthony Feor On of the most predictible movies of a lifetime, but not total crap 3 stars
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  03-Feb-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-May-2006



Directed by
  Simon West

Written by
  Jake Wade Wall

  Camilla Belle
  Brian Geraghty
  John Bobek
  Molly Bryant
  Madeline Carroll
  Katie Cassidy

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