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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.49%
Worth A Look: 4.65%
Average: 17.44%
Pretty Bad: 25.58%
Total Crap48.84%

9 reviews, 32 user ratings

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When a Stranger Calls (2006)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Doug Bentin

"So close to working, but, sorry wrong number."
2 stars

In an age when telemarketing could easily replace boils as the most annoying Old Testament plague, here comes a movie about a serial killer who uses the phone as his preferred means of setting victims up for the kill. He calls a babysitter, played with suitable angst by Camilla Belle, and warns her to “check the children,” the implication being that they are in danger, heh heh heh. Then he starts killing off secondary characters as if they were easy to come by, which, in movies like this, they are.

One: “When a Stranger Calls” is only a horror movie because the marketing team at Screen Gems is selling it as one. It’s a suspense film, a thriller, and it might make you nervous but it won’t instill a sense of horror.

Two: It’s directed by Simon West and is a vast improvement over his “Laura Croft: Tomb Raider”—but almost anything would be.

Three: It’s designed to scare girls and have them grabbing a’hold of their dates’ arms. It won’t scare the date. In fact, it may not scare the girl, but it will give everyone involved an excuse for that personal contact.

Four: The most interesting thing about the film is the way that West, screenwriter Jake Wade Wall, production designer Jon Gary Steele, and D.P. Peter Menzies use the accoutrements of Madmen with Cleavers movies to create suspense. Watch the ways these guys take advantage of light, wind, curtains, doorways, windows, long halls and unusual décor to generate that tenseness you sometimes feel when you’re alone in a strange place.

Five: The acting isn’t great but it cuts the mustard. Lead Camilla Belle, as babysitter Jill Johnson, is onscreen practically the whole way and doesn’t get boring. This has as much to do with the facts that she’s 19 and cute as all get out as it does with her acting talent, but sometimes at the movies you take what you can get.

Six: The plot is nothing new. Jill’s dad drives her to the lake front home of Dr. and Mrs. Mandrakis—she’s had her car taken away as part of a month-long grounding for, ha ha, talking too much on the phone. She’s sitting the Mandrakis kids, whom we don’t even see for the first hour of the film because she never bothers to check on them.

She begins receiving ominous calls from “the stranger,” who seems content at first to just breathe heavily into the phone. As the calls become more threatening, Jill phones the cops who tell her to keep the mysterious caller on the line for 50 seconds so they can trace the call.

This leads up to the big scare moment when the cops tell her that the—choke, gasp—calls are coming from inside the house!

Ordinarily I should be drummed out of the Brotherhood of Scary Movie Fans for revealing the Big Plot Twist, but this has been the BPT in this kind of movie since “Black Christmas” first did it in 1974. Besides, the trailer for WaSC gave it away.

Now the plucky sitter has to fend off the Stranger to save herself and the kids, as well as set up the sequel.

Seven: Why am I using a number pattern in this review? Because that’s how the movie is constructed. You know, connect the numbered dots to draw a picture. West actually makes it work pretty well and you’ll get about as tense as a movie without onscreen violence can make you. The family pet causes a couple of “BOO” moments, but you know that’ll happen as soon as you see the damn cat.

Eight: For what it is, “When a Stranger Calls” isn’t terrible, in its all too retro way. West and his collaborators don’t try to make a 2006 movie out of this 1979 material. If 21st. century horror is going the way of “Saw” and “Hostel,” this kind of thing may be what you prefer.

Nine: But suspense isn’t horror not matter what the marketing team tries to sell you.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 02/22/06 09:27:40
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Horror Remakes: For more in the Horror Remakes series, click here.

User Comments

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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