Director – Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls Back, The Sitter)
Starring – Carol Kane (The Princess Bride, Addams Family Values), Rutanya Alda (The Dark Half, Amityville II: The Possession), and Carmen Argenziano (The Last Ninja, Sudden Impact)
Release Date – 1979
Rating – 3/5
Blu Release – 2/5
Tagline – “Every babysitter’s nightmare becomes real…”
I’m an avid horror fan but I’m also the first to admit that I dodge fan favorites to check out the more weirder side of the genre. I have a different taste in films and often catch hell for liking movies that many would dub as horrible. I refuse to change the way I am and just grew thick skin so these comments don’t affect me. Over the years I’ve taken time away from my bizarre films to watch these classic genre flicks.
For years now I’ve heard people talk about how much fun, yet dated, the horror thriller When a Stranger Calls is. I’ve owned this film on blu for several years and never watched it but that changed recently when Mill Creek re-released the film on blu as part of their VHS slip line.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows babysitter Jill (Kane) who is working on her school work while the children she is tasked with watching over sleep upstairs. Over time she receives several phone calls that leave her worried instructing her to check on the children. She speaks with the police and they trace the call from within the home. They arrive to find a man in their room and the children were ripped apart. He is arrested and several years passes and he escapes from lock up and begins terrorizing her again.**Spoiler Alert**
Extreme horror fans and fans of underground horror never mention this film but I do hear it praised on occasion from pop horror fans. Most tend to love it but do make note of how dated it is due to it’s heavy use of the home phone. Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the film had an atmosphere and tone that really worked well for the story.
The acting in this one doesn’t have me sold on the cast but the story is compelling enough to make up for the lack of enthusiasm. Honestly, I have a difficult time liking the characters but the scenarios that we find them in makes the film worth a watch. Kane has delivered some seriously fun performances in the past but I just wasn’t feeling her in this one. Her character is rather annoying and then during her time or stress and horror we get her ungodly shriek that was painful to listen to. I don’t mind screaming but hers is just so forced.
The story for this one is really what made the film so enjoyable to me. The deranged man in the house prank calling the babysitter was played out when I was growing up in the late 80s and 90s. However, it really fits in with the time during the late 70s. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the John Carpenter made for television film Someone’s Watching Me! which has a similar basis and was releases a year prior. It’s very 70s in my opinion and works. I also loved how effective just mentioning the brutal murder of the children was when compared to actually seeing it. The dialogue and detail was gruesome and really sold it.
Finally, this one doesn’t have the blood and gore that most modern horror flicks have but we do get a story that draws you in. The atmosphere and tension works in the film’s favor as well making it a great late night horror watch. Overall, When a Stranger Calls may not deliver anything new, especially in a modern era, but it still gives the viewer a solid watch. The blu looks solid but the lack of special features is a bit of a turn off. I do enjoy the VHS inspired slip but aside from that there is nothing special about the release.