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When a stranger calls

by Archives February 8, 2006

Last weekend, many of us answered the stranger’s call, earning When a Stranger Calls the top rank at the box-office.

In 1979, the original When a Stranger Calls shocked audiences worldwide and went on to become a classic among horror fans. However, to be completely honest, the original movie’s only strength was the opening sequence. From there, the rest of the movie went downhill, only to provide viewers with some decent material in the film’s last minutes.

For this revival of the classic, the screenplay has been updated to fit into the new millennium. In this age of Caller ID and cell phones, the original plot simply would not have done the trick. Also, the new screenplay does us the favour of taking the fifteen minutes that were genuinely chilling in the original and stretches them for slightly over eighty minutes. With new surprises and a tightly knit plot, the viewer never gets bored.

The premise is quite simple: A teenage babysitter receives anonymous phone calls from a psychopathic stranger. Alone and terrified, she contacts the police, only to be later on informed that the calls are coming from. yep, inside the house.

In 1993, a made-for-TV sequel of the original offered another variation on the same theme. A lonely babysitter was once again tormented by a stranger inside the house, but this stranger had a rather unconventional trick: he was a ventriloquist. With one of the most shockingly intense climaxes ever shot, it left even more of a lasting impression than the first.

The movie itself rests on Camilla Belle’s frail shoulder. She pulls off her first starring role surprisingly well, adding a strong yet frail dimension to the typical character of a damsel in distress. She embodies everything you would expect from the all-American teenager forced into playing a game of hide-and-seek with a psychopath.

Another key player in this story is the house itself. With its high-tech gadgets and a gazillion rooms for the stalker to roam, it provides the perfect setting for this suspenseful movie.

Although it is an entirely new movie, this remake reprises many elements from the original. From the names that have remained the same to some actual dialogues that have been directly transposed into this new version, that new movie seems more like a tribute to the original, rather than an actual sequel. It builds on the strongest elements of the 1979 version, making it a stronger and even better movie.

When a Stranger Calls slowly builds up tension through the use of the oldest tricks in the book. From the black cat running errands to the phone ringing at the most impromptus moment, every single one of them is used. After all these years, they prove to be as efficient as ever.

Director Simon West is definitely not from the “show don’t tell” school of thought. Hemeglobine fans will therefore be slightly disappointed with the absence of violent sequences that usually characterize horror movies, but West manages to create a genuinely intense and chilling atmosphere.

So whether you have seen the original or not, do take this new call from a stranger. It will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions… but just make sure you turn off your cell phone…

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