Saturday, January 12, 2013

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

"Have you checked the children?"

Before there was "Scream" there was 'The Stranger'...

"When a Stranger Calls" is horror film from the late 1970s that was inspired by a classic urban legend. The babysitter alone in a house being terrorized by a man who keeps calling asking if she's "checked children", only to find out the call is coming from inside the house! And that, ladies & gentlemen, is the first 20 minutes of the film. The rest of the film drags and drags and drags. After the initial 20 minutes of the movie we jump 7 years where we find that the psychopath from the first film has escaped and is now roaming the streets, stalking some ugly middle-aged woman. The film spends a good 40 minutes with this whole thing and it never pays off!

Charles Durning plays a private detective who is tracking down this psycho. After he almost catches him we jump back to Jill (played by Carol Kane) where she is now a stay at home mom with 2 kids. First thing I have to say is, how is Jill old enough to have 2 kids THOSE ages. They look to be at least 7 and 3. We are led to believe that she is a teenager in the beginning of the film and then the film jumps 7 years, which would make her in her early to mid 20s. Just seems kind of odd to me.
Anyway, she and her husband are going out to dinner and leave their kids with a babysitter. Somehow the psycho knows where she lives and what restaurant she will be at and calls her and starts her freaking out all over again. The film ends abruptly and you walk out wondering what the hell you just saw.

The first 20 minutes of the film are amazing, truly terrifying. I am not scared by much, but as I watched this in my dark bedroom in the middle of the night, I found myself clinging to my blankets because it was seriously scary. But after that the film falls apart. The director spends too much time on the killer and his odd obsession with some random middle-aged woman he finds in a bar. As the audience I just didn't give a shit about this story line, especially since it leads to nothing! Once we get back to Jill and her story I feel the film finds itself, but it's literally just rehash of the beginning of the film with Jill now the mother instead of the babysitter.

The film will always be remembered for the first 20 minutes but nothing else, I don't really consider it a classic but it's worth watching at least once.