February 3, 2016 When A Stranger Calls 10 Years Later
It was on Friday, February 3rd, 2006 When A Stranger Calls hit theaters. English Director Simon West (Con Air 1997, The Expendables 2 2012) delivered what few other directors have; a Thriller that still has the audience jumping up and down in their seat due to horror and suspense. Not “just another” movie that was shot that year, it took creativity and reinventing from the entire crew, and now a decade later, When A Stranger Calls is still worth talking about.
A remake of the 1979 Fred Walton (April Fool’s Day 1986, When A Stranger Calls Back 1993) film by the same name, Writer Jake Wade Wall (The Hitcher 2007, Amusement 2008) respectively took the screenplay of the modern adaptation to a whole other level. The filming began on January 1st, 2005 and was completed on February the 28th of that same year in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada. The cast included Camilla Belle (10,000 B.C. 2008, Push 2009), Katie Cassidy (Taken 2008, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010), and Tommy Flanagan (Sin City 2005, Sons of Anarchy series) as The Stranger. Other supportive characters worth mentioning are Tessa Thompson (Murder On The 13th Floor 2012, Selma 2014), Brian Geraghty (Jarhead 2005, Flight 2012), and Clark Gregg (Thor 2011, The Avengers 2012), among others. Their roles might have been small, but everything interconnects to the movie’s initial plot. Interestingly, when approached to do When A Stranger Calls, after another celebrity turned it down, Belle was hesitant because she said she did not like Horror stories. Attempting to entice her, West explained the meaning of its original counterpart and Belle immediately agreed to be part of the project.
Belle plays Jill Johnson, a high-school student who gets a job as a babysitter at an anything-but-modest residence who has also just had a break-up with her boyfriend Bobby. The Mandrakis Family, played by both Derek de Lint (Deep Impact 1998, Black Book 2006) and Kate Jennings Grant (The Rebound 2009, Love & Other Drugs 2010) seemed like the nicest employers a babysitter could have. Even the two-story house was filled with elegance and rooms full of wonder anyone could explore. Time was going by perfectly until an array of phone calls started pouring in. At first, The Stranger on the other side of the phone line was only able to complete inhales and exhales before hanging up. But as time progressed and people started disappearing, Jill finds out that those phone calls might not be pranks after all. Probably one of the best lines of the movie and the most intense moment was when The Stranger asked if Jill has checked on the children, to which she feels worried and thus goes to check on them. Jill then gets a phone call again and is asked how the children were. This is when we finally find out The Stranger has been watching Jill since the beginning. People found themselves gasping the most when the police called Jill and, with exasperation, tells her that the call had been made from inside the house. The audience went crazy after this scene and was yelling at the silver screen in hopes that Jill would somehow hear them.
All the hype and suspense that was built during the first hour of When A Stranger Calls—albeit being a gripping hour—could not compare to the last twenty-seven minutes of pure adrenaline: Jill hiding the kids, Jill running with the kids, then again without the kids, and dodging the stranger with and without the kids were all Oscar-worthy moments fit to an incredible Thriller. After successfully escaping from the stranger’s grasp, Jill finds herself saved by the same policeman she talked to on the phone, and afterwards, in a hospital bed with post-mortem memories that will probably haunt her for the rest of her life.
When A Stranger Calls was in fact initially so intense that West opted to not show the opening scene in order to not go over the PG-13 rating. Just imagine how much more eerie the film would have been had West had shown the beginning of it in its full splendor. Regardless, the movie was so well done that the audience was happy with it the way it was. In fact, no one even minded to not even learn The Stranger’s identity. By the way, while the mysterious stranger’s physical body was portrayed by Flanagan, he did not even say a word in the movie. The voice on the other side of the telephone was none other then Lance Henriksen (The Terminator 1984, Aliens 1986), proving just a voice can be creepy enough to scare viewers.
Furthermore, in a world filled with movies with explicit sexual scenes, When A Stranger Calls did not need to add those unnecessary scenes to excite the audience. The urban legend of the babysitter being stalked by an unknown assailant was brought back to life with a twist in this effervescent film. With that said, it gives the audience the thrills, the chills, and it fills the void movie lovers have when other films lack mystery. Not many films today can say that. While many other remakes went down to the not-so-great review list, When A Stranger Calls was able to ignite the flame that was once lit by the original film. Costing a total of approximately $15 million to make, the film more than doubled its budget when it hit theaters worldwide; domestically making approximately $47, 860, 214 and foreign making a total of approximately $19, 106, 773.
There have been many remakes for different movies, but this one was probably one of the few that could appeal to both fans’ original films as well as remakes. When many see the word “remake,” they immediately jump to the conclusion that the new version of the movie is exactly the same—plus or minus a thing—as the original version. That is not the case with When A Stranger Calls. In the 2006 edition, only the first twenty minutes are exactly the same as the original, the rest of the film is a different story. Thereafter, the movie evolved into a more exhilarating version fit to a modern audience. If there was any significant purpose of this remake, it was the fact that it exemplify how disturbing a movie can get, even after transcending ages and culture.
When A Stranger Calls has become a cult flick that keeps its audience in suspense throughout, and will continue to do so for a very long time. Ghosts, Monsters, Demons, Witches, Vampires, and Werewolves are not real, When A Stranger Calls frightens millions of people because in reality, stalking serial killers do exist. That truth alone is enough to give people anxiety and it is the reason When A Stranger Calls delivered as promised, even a decade later.