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So once again the Randomatic 3000 has given me a remake. I got the 2006 remake of the 1979 movie When a Stranger Calls. Since the remake is my actual random movie, I watched it first.

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When a Stranger Calls

Director:
Simon West

Writers:
Jake Wade Wall (Screenplay)
Steve Feke & Fred Walton (1979 Screenplay)

Cast:
Camilla BelleJill Johnson
Tommy Flanagan – Stranger
Katie Cassidy – Tiffany
Tessa Thompson  – Scarlet
Clark Gregg – Ben Johnson
Derek de LintDr. Mandrakis
Kate Jennings Grant – Kelly Mandrakis

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 3 February 2006 (USA)

Ratings:
USA: PG-13
Flickchart Global Ranking: 12449
IMDb: 5/10
Netflix: 3.1/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 9% (Rotten)
Common Sense Rating: Pause for kids 15 & under

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When a Stranger Calls is based on the old urban legend called “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs” that, according to Snopes and Wikipedia, has been around since the 60s and has made it’s way into other movies of the horror/slasher genre. A young babysitter keeps getting phone calls from an increasingly threatening voice asking her if she’s checked the children. She calls the police, who can’t really do anything and say that it’s probably just a prank. The police agree to trace the call, however, and after they do they call the babysitter to warn her that – as the scary music swells – THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!

OK, here we go. Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle) is a high school student who is babysitting for a wealthy doctor and his wife at their amazing house in the woods. She is instructed that the kids are recovering from the flu and are finally asleep so try not to wake them up. Sure enough the calls start.

The first problem is that this 2006 version is not set in the 70s, it’s apparently set in 2006. Jill has a cell phone but her father (Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D.) has taken away her privileges because she went over her allowed minutes. The phone in the doctor’s house has Caller ID so she knows when her friend Tiffany is calling, but when the Stranger calls it comes up “Unknown Caller.” Fair enough, but apparently it doesn’t take 60 seconds for the police to trace a call. That was a convenient plot point in 60s and 70s cop shows, but it’s not valid anymore.

Secondly, Camilla Belle is a lovely young actress who looks like she could be Milla Jovovich’s little sister, but she’s just not that interesting.

Thirdly, just ick. It was moderately thrilling but few of the plot points were a surprise and the ending just felt icky.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

To me, a good horror/thriller movie should feel like a roller coaster. You’re scared but it’s fun. This one felt more like Splash Mountain except that at the bottom you splash into a stagnant pond.

professorbobo

Professor Bobo

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When a Stranger Calls

Director:
Fred Walton

Writers:
Steve Feke & Fred Walton

Cast:
Carol Kane  – Jill Johnson
Rutanya Alda – Mrs. Mandrakis
Carmen ArgenzianoDr. Mandrakis
Charles Durning –  John Clifford
Ron O’Neal – Lt. Charlie Garber
Tony Beckley – Curt Duncan
Colleen Dewhurst – Tracy

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 26 October 1979 (USA)

Ratings:
USA: R
Flickchart Global Ranking: 3317
IMDb: 6.6/10
Netflix: 3.2/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 40% (Rotten)
Common Sense Rating: Pause for kids 15 & under

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WASC and the whole “the calls are coming from inside the house” myth was something I was aware of, but I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen the original WASC from 1979. Maybe bits and pieces on TV. When you watch these movies ass backwards like I did, you realize that the 2006 version is pretty close to a shot-for-shot remake of the original, but only the first act. The house in the 2006 version is bigger and more isolated, but Jill (Carol Kane) is still a high school student dealing with a breakup, the Dr. and Mrs. are still going out for dinner and a movie, and the two kids are still in bed recovering from the flu.

Up to the point that the police tell her that the calls are coming from inside the house, things are pretty close, but then the two movies go off in very different directions. The 1979 version introduces Charles Durning as a police detective who arrives at the house to apprehend The Stranger. We then cut to seven years later and follow the aftermath.

In this version we find out the Stranger’s identity, he’s a Brit named Curt Duncan and he is sent to an asylum. Seven years later he escapes and Dr. Mandrakis hires Durning’s character to find him.

Carol Kane has always been fun to watch in the comedies she’s done like Taxi, Scrooged, and The Princess Bride. Here as a terrified teenager, she’s just not that effective. Curt Duncan seems too wimpy to be a real threat, and there are entirely too many shots of overweight Charles Durning chasing him and almost having a heart attack.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

If you’ve seen the other two instances where I’ve reviewed remakes (here and here), it won’t come as a surprise that the original is better. But to be honest, there are a lot of better thrillers out there than either of these.

nanites

Nanites

Closing Love Theme

Hey, you’re a stranger
And very crazy
But here’s my number
Call me repeatedly

A MISPLACED BOY WILL RETURN

in

“WRITER OF O”

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