When a Stranger Calls Back - Review
PLOT: Julia is babysitting two young kids while a doctor and his wife are out. During the evening, a stranger knocks on the door asking Julia if she can call the auto club so he can get a tow. The phone line is dead though. This is all part of the act as he has made his way inside and abducted the two children. Years later, Julia has become an introvert college student. She claims the stalker is back haunting her. Enter Jill Johnson and now retired cop John Clifford, who have reunited to help Julia find the stalker. Can they stop him before he strikes again?
LOWDOWN: My biggest fear in the world is home invasion. Yep, not manics with chainsaws, or ghosts, or zombies, or even haunted killer cars...but home invasion. Nothing honestly scares me more than that. Such movies like Black Christmas, The Strangers, and the original When A Stranger Calls scares the living daylights out of me. Just the idea of somebody knocking on the door in the middle of the night or breaking in. Your home is supposed to be a safe place of comfort...if you can't be safe there...then were can you?
I borrowed the original When A Stranger Calls years ago back when I was in high school. I have a fond memory of watching this with my mother and the first twenty minutes literary scared the hell out of me. I had all ready known the ever so popular twist since I'm such a big fan of a similar plot device used in Black Christmas. Still, just the idea of this guy calling this young girl, breaking into the dark empty house, and killing those two children. I gotta tell you, nothing makes me more uneasy. The worst scene in my eyes was when Jill runs to the door, seeing the killer begin to come down the stairs and how she's trying desperately to yank the door open before yanking it open and screaming in the police officer's face. I still get the chills thinking about it.
Still, When A Stranger Calls isn't for everyone. Instead of being a straight up horror movie, it's more of a thriller which follows a police detective trying to track down a killer. My favorite parts of the original is of course the famous opening and ending. When the movie was remade I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Yeah great idea mainly focusing on the babysitter alone, and I had to admit that house was fucking stunning...still...just didn't do it for me. Something about these PG13 remakes that were being cranked out at the time just didn't do it for me. I felt they just made things too tame for my taste. Still, I always did remember the sequel to the original. Having seen it several times on TV, no movie creeped me out than this.
On a side note a very unsettling similar story happened to my mother right before she married my father back in the 1970's. Her parents were out seeing friends around the holidays and she was home alone when a man came to the door claiming he had car trouble and asked to be let in. My mother couldn't see out the window and didn't feel right about letting this guy in so long story short she said she would call for him. He kept insisting and when she said to go down the street and ask another house he began to scream and swear at her and started to try and kick down the door. Lucky for my mother she called the police and by the time they arrived the guy was long gone. Still, every time I watch this movie I always think of that story and how scary it is that it happened in the very house I live in today.
Anywho, much like the original this movie picks up with a great opening. We have the ever so lovely Jill Schoelen as the young baby sitter in this nice suburban house with two sleeping children above her. I love the use of the man coming to the door asking for help and how the phone is dead and how she lies to him. This is tension building at it's best. You can't help but feel scared for this young girl and uneasy as time seems to crawl for her as she waits. Then of course little things such as the stove making the kettle go off, the open slider door, the pad of paper, and of course the best line in the whole movie when the guy on the other side of the door tells her that he thinks she's not alone in the house. That he saw somebody moving around on the second floor.
We then have this poor woman now in college never fully getting over what happened and how those two children she was watching that night went missing. I love how she lives in her tiny apartment and how for weeks she feels as though somebody has been watching her. How little things have been moved, lights left on, windows opened...as if somebody is toying with her.
The return of Carol Kane and the late Charles Durning makes this movie even better. Carol's character has been though this before and takes this young girl under her wing, understanding her terror.
This time we follow the killer a little closer and I gotta tell you...talk about a sick puppy. The whole puppet thing and the throwing your voice bit, very creepy.
Then of course the famous ending when Jill is alone in her dark apartment hearing the killer all over the place yet nowhere in sight. Best use of body paint e-v-e-r. I seriously screamed when I first saw this. Brillant.
So if your ever looking for a very creepy made for TV movie and a great sequel go watch this. It may not be for everyone since it isn't your basic slasher, but it's a great sequel to a great classic.