When A Stranger Calls Review

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Babysitter Jill (Belle) is terrorised in an isolated house by calls from a menacing stranger. When the police trace the line, it turns out that the homicidal maniac is very close by indeed. The frightened teenager has to put up a fight to survive


This remake expands on the first act of a reasonably well-remembered 1979 film, which was a self-contained short based on that old ‘the calls are coming from inside the house’ urban legend. Here, the anecdote is inflated to a long, fitful, busy night of menace for the heroine, with a few passersby to up the body count and a conventional air which means you know they won’t go near the biggest taboo-breaking shock of the original (the deaths of sleeping children).

In 1979, Carol Kane was an appealing but ordinary girl in a well-appointed middle-class home; here, teen-model princess Camilla Belle is in the sort of luxurious, overdesigned zillionaire’s mansion that is always trouble in a thriller (cf: The Glass House, Hostage), with an atrium containing a fishpond and rare birds in the middle of the living room and all manner of gadgets and hidden features which turn out to be of use in the struggle with the Stranger (scarfaced Tommy Flanagan, with Lance Henriksen’s raspy voice).

The melodramatics are amped up by the token storm raging outside — which is all very well, but the simple creepiness of those threatening calls (“Have you checked the children?”) is lost in all the Gothic thunder, and giving the killer a mobile phone ruins the premise.

What you expect from 1970s horror remade by Simon West — loud, noisy, flashy but too rarely chilling.