When A Stranger Calls

The 1979 original had a great tag line — "Have you checked the children?" — and two solid scares, two more than you'll find anywhere in this useless remake. Grounded by her parents after she went way over her monthly cell phone minutes and forced to take a babysitting gig to help pay whopping bill, young Colorado high-schooler Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle)...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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The 1979 original had a great tag line — "Have you checked the children?" — and two solid scares, two more than you'll find anywhere in this useless remake. Grounded by her parents after she went way over her monthly cell phone minutes and forced to take a babysitting gig to help pay whopping bill, young Colorado high-schooler Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle) arrives at the beautiful — and secluded — lakefront home of Dr. and Mrs. Mandrakis (Derek de Lint, Kate Jennings Grant). All open spaces, glass walls and a bird-filled atrium, the house is a work of art, even if those motion-sensitive lights are a bit disconcerting and the large windows can make one feel exposed and vulnerable. The Mandrakis's two small children (Madeline Carroll, Arthur Young) are both tucked away in their beds when Jill arrives, so after a quick tour of the house and a rundown of the important phone numbers in case of an emergency, the Mandrakises leave for dinner and a movie. Jill is busy nosing around Mrs. Mandrakis' closets when she hears the front door click closed. Have the Mandrakises forgotten something, or has Todd, Dr. Mandrakis' college-aged son from a prior marriage returned home unannounced? Could it be Rosa (Rosine Hatem), the live-in housekeeper who has a room on the upper floor, or is it that nasty serial killer who's been preying on babysitters and their charges? Jill soon has her answer once the phone starts ringing with all the terrifying persistence of a telemarketer who wants to help consolidate your debt. What begins with simple heavy breathing soon turns into a husky male voice asking Jill if she's checked on the children, and when she finally breaks down and asks him what it is he wants, the caller has a simple answer: He wants to bathe in her blood. Rather than remake the entire original movie, Simon West and screenwriter Jake Wade Wall have taken only that now-classic first act and padded it out into a dull, filler-filled feature that's remarkably void of any new ideas. And new ideas are what's desperately needed: What was so jolting in 1979 soon became hackneyed, throw-away scares in the slasher cycle of American horror movies that followed in the original movie's wake; it's hard to believe that any one today would still think they're effective. We can only hope what ever undeserved success this remake meets doesn't further inspire anyone to remake that dreadful, 1993 made-for-cable sequel, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: The 1979 original had a great tag line — "Have you checked the children?" — and two solid scares, two more than you'll find anywhere in this useless remake. Grounded by her parents after she went way over her monthly cell phone minutes and forced to take a… (more)

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