When a Stranger Calls (2006)

wasc-043Do you know how your little brother or cousin would always pop out from a corner with a mask and yell “boo!” and then you’d be scared. And then amused, he’d continue doing so. Again, and again, and again, until you started to get angry. But he continued doing it until you tore the mask off and kicked him in the nuts? Well, that’s what my experience was like with Simon West’s remake of “When a Stranger Calls”. Now, I haven’t seen the original film just yet, but I imagine it won’t make me want to kick the director in the nuts. Imagine this: I took a camera and filmed myself around the house. You would see me drinking water, taking a dump, cleaning my ears, walking around the hallway… I know you’re saying “That’s stupid, I’d never see that”. Well, then you may want to stay away from this.

West’s idea of telling a story is doing just that. You can literally feel the writer sweating looking for ways to stretch the story, while he has the character doing literally nothing but walking around the house for a whole hour. And that’s not an exaggeration either. West’s storytelling abilities are centered on having the main character walking around the huge house she’s supposed to be in for literally the entire film. Save for some loud bumps, thumps, creaks, and slamming of doors. Ooh, scary, scary! There’s even one scene where a black cat bursts from a closet with a humongous thunderous thump, and a water fall goes off that has the sound of a truck backfiring. Can someone tell me how this is scary? Who thought West including these tired devices would be a good idea?

At one point there’s a loud bang going off beside her, and she opens the refrigerator and ice is conveniently falling on to the tray. Audiences can not be stupid enough to find this scary. Everything from the fire place to a remote makes a very loud noise just so West can make us jump and help us forget that the movie just isn’t scary. And the funny aspect of “Stranger” is that the main character Jill never really acts like a teenager. If I were her, as soon as the calls would start I’d immediately let loose like Lenny Bruce after stubbing a toe. But no, she begins with “You jerk! Stop calling me! You’re such a meanie!” That last one was false, but I bet someone suggested that at some point. But the lame-brained script relies on a series of plot holes, lapses in logic, and ridiculous plot devices all of which pile up to this heap of crap.

For no reason we learn of another babysitter who was stalked and killed before the film through phone calls, for no reason we learn there’s a circus near the house, for no reason we learn she’s a runner. Neither of these plot points ever comes into play during the film. Jill’s father says he doesn’t want her working so far, yet he doesn’t mind her taking a job so far away in the middle of nowhere. Jill baby sits instead of doing chores or getting a summer job? She baby sits when it’s stated that the kids in the house have a nanny? How did the killer know the parents would have a babysitter? Wouldn’t rich people naturally have a digital phone line which would mean better reception even during a storm?! Why would anyone buy a house with so many windows? Beyond that though, Belle’s acting is brutally stiff. Hey Camilla you’ve grown in to quite a scrumptious girl, but try some acting lessons next time.

Belle is incredibly unconvincing as the heroine Jill giving a very wooden and over the top performance. But much of that suffers because the character of Jill is such a moron. She commits all the wrong moves, and basically deserves what she gets after ninety minutes of her doing nothing but running around and crying. West tops off this crap-o-rama with one of the most brain dead endings I’ve seen in a while that clues us to an inevitable sequel. West should be stopped. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but—the calls are coming from inside the house. I’m an asshole, right? I bet that Carol Kane version is not looking so bad now, eh? While it’s true that the original version may not have been a masterpiece, I would gladly place thirty dollars to bet that it was much better than this piece of dog crap. Basically, when all is said and done, it’s a safe dumb film for safe dumb audiences.