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When a Stranger Calls (PG-13)

Release Date: February 3rd, 2006 by Screen Gems.
The Cast: Camilla Belle, Tommy Flanagan, Tessa Thompson, Brian Geraghty, Clark Gregg.
Directed by Simon West.
BASIC PREMISE: Jill (Belle) receives suspicious phone calls from a stranger while babysitting two children. A remake of the 1979 film.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: When a Stranger Calls has great production values, but its problem lies heavily in the script. Camille Belle, who showed that can act in The Ballad of Jack and Rose , doesn’t have much material to work with here in her role as Jill—although she does look hot. Within the first five minutes, she must already visit the big house to baby-sit the two young kids of her family friends. Why? Because she went over the maximum minutes on her cell-phone. Everything that she goes through after she is left alone lacks plausibility and feels quite pointless. Her best friend briefly shows up out of blue for no real reason. The maid is too busy in atrium while the two children are already asleep. The stranger behind the suspicious phone calls has a creepy voice, but never really does anything to threaten her until he finally asks if she checked on the children late in the second act. Meanwhile, Jill has nobody to truly interact with other than the house itself, which seems like a character of its own. With long, narrow corridors, dark walls, creepy-looking statues, and windows all around, director Simon West creates an uncomfortable, chilling atmosphere. A few well-shot scenes from outside the isolated house show that it’s near a lake surrounded by a forest with the wind blowing strong. Unfortunately, most of the scares turn out to be fake and redundant, such as multiple shots of a black cat. The clichéd third act turns out also to be chaotic and contrived. When a Stranger Calls would have been much scarier more attention—and money—were spent on making the script at least somewhat realistic rather than spend it mostly on set design and sound effects.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: None is required or desired.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Implausible, redundant and clichéd.


IN A NUTSHELL: Occasionally chilling and atmospheric, but not enough real scares and a weak, an implausible script while the house itself gives the only decent performance. You're better off renting the 1979 version.


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