When a Stranger Calls/When a Stranger Calls Back: Limited Edition (1979/1993 film) Review
My Bloody Reviews Verdict 8

When a Stranger Calls/When a Stranger Calls Back: Limited Edition (1979/1993 film) Review When a Stranger Calls sees an urban legend made flesh, as student babysitter Jill Johnston (Carol Kane) is looking after a family’s children when she receives the first in a series of mysterious and increasingly scary phone calls from a stranger. Police ..

Summary Rating: 8.0 from 10 8.0 great

When a Stranger Calls/When a Stranger Calls Back: Limited Edition (1979/1993 film) Review

When a Stranger Calls/When a Stranger Calls Back: Limited Edition (1979/1993 film) Review

When a Stranger Calls sees an urban legend made flesh, as student babysitter Jill Johnston (Carol Kane) is looking after a family’s children when she receives the first in a series of mysterious and increasingly scary phone calls from a stranger. Police trace the call and discover that it’s coming from inside the house, sparking a desperate chase and a shocking and grisly discovery.

Seven years later, the brutal killer has escaped from a psychiatric hospital and is once again targeting Johnson. The cop who saved her first time around, now a private detective comes to her aid, but can they track the brutal killer before it’s too late?

When a Stranger Calls originally started life as a short film Sitter (included with this release) which, following the success of the similarly themed Halloween (1978), saw itself expanded into a full-length feature. Like Bob Clark’s classic Black Christmas (1974) before it, director Fred Walton’s film was inspired by the urban legend ‘The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs’ and this informs the film’s now-classic opening twenty minutes.

Upon its original theatrical release When a Stranger Calls was a sizable hit at the box-office despite meeting with a mixed reception from film critics. This mixed reception is understandable given that the film is effectively front-loaded with THAT opening sequence meaning that the subsequent two acts, added to flesh out the plot of the original short, actually do feel like hastily tacked on afterthoughts, which is effectively what they are. They can’t help but feel flaccid after such a bravura opening.

The first twenty minutes of When a Stranger Calls – and more so it’s belated 1993 made-for-TV sequel – heavily influenced the opening segment to director Wes Craven’s 1986 horror hit Scream. And like Scream I found that the rest of this film struggled to match the opening act and this made viewing When a Stranger Calls such a disappointment for my younger self when I rented it on video many years ago. However watching it again I found myself more engrossed in the second and third acts and just as gripped by the climactic bedroom scene as I was by the iconic opening.

There are niggling plot holes however solid performances from both Charles Durning and Carol Kane elevate the material above its B-movie leanings. Elsewhere Colleen Dewhurst and Tony Beckley do well carrying the weaker midsection and both Dana Kaproff’s suitably ominous score and Donald Peterman’s cinematography ensure that the tension and thrills are ramped up for maximum effect.

In researching both titles prior to writing this review I was rather agog to discover that there are a large number of people that seem to favour the sequel imaginatively entitled When a Stranger Calls Back. Aside from the decent opening sequence I was frankly unable to suspend my disbelief to the levels required to swallow the plot. It’s included as part of this limited edition set so you can see what I mean for yourself rather than have me reveal my issue with it and thus spoil your viewing. I’d rather sit through the dire 2006 remake of When a Stranger Calls than sit through this sequel again. No really, I would.

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