When I first saw the trailer for When A Stranger Calls, I was really excited about it. Not only is it a remake of an Alfred Hitchcock film, but it’s based on one of my favorite urban legends. The simple version of the tale goes like this: young baby-sitter arrives to watch the already-sleeping children. As soon as the parents leave, she starts receiving creepy phone calls. The caller asks if she has checked on the children lately. The girl calls the police, who trace the call and alert her that the calls are coming from inside the house. From a former baby-sitter’s point of view…that’s some scary stuff.
This updated version takes place in a ridiculously nice house. The doctor and his wife have a bird habitat inside their house, complete with trees, a pond filled with koi, and tons of little chirping birds. There’s a guest house on the property, they have a remote control fireplace, and a fancy automatic light system. Jill the baby-sitter, played by Camilla Belle, keeps getting creepy phone calls. The caller will just breathe, or ask who she is, etc. The maid goes missing, but her cell phone and purse are still in the house. The caller calls back and asks Jill if she’s checked the children. She drops the phone and goes to check on them, only to see that they’re peacefully sleeping. Immediately after, the caller calls back and asks how the children are. Jill hangs up and calls the police who tell her they can trace the call if she keeps him on the line for more than sixty seconds.
As we all know from the commercials and the urban legend, they eventually do trace the call and find that the calls are coming from inside the house. Up until this point, while it’s building tension very well, the movie is kind of boring. It’s when Jill kicks into action that it gets interesting. Camilla Belle is excellent as the freaked-out baby-sitter. I completely believed she was on the brink of having a nervous breakdown. As a movie heroine, she’s quite crafty in the ways she thinks of to escape the stranger. I don’t think I’d ever be that quick-thinking in the face of danger, especially in a strange, dark house.
Overall the movie was worth watching. It’s a fascinating story that has kept baby-sitters scared for ages. Unfortunately I think the director and writers were going for a Scream kind of a feeling where every time the phone rings after you watch the movie you’ll get a little scared. While I don’t think my ringing telephone is going to scare me anytime soon, the movie was a decent thriller. It wasn’t my favorite ever, but I also didn’t hate it.
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