Tuesday, May 4, 2010

When a Stranger Calls (2006)

(This review was first published in September of 2007)

"See this summer's smash hit! All the critics are raving about how the hero blows the man-eating shark into smithereens after the beast has eaten a half-dozen people including a small boy! Watch in unexpected awe as our hero struggles to aim at a scuba tank in the shark's mouth while balancing on what remains of his still-sinking boat! You'll be surprised at the ending as our hero swims off into the sunset after being reunited with his buddy that he thought was dead!"

Ummm, did I just ruin Jaws for the six people left in the USA who haven't seen the film yet? Good. That means I did my marketing correctly - or at least to the standards set by whatever geniuses put together the advertising trailers for the remake of When a Stranger Calls. (I watched this on Pay-Per-View and even the film synopsis states: "A babysitter is threatened by phone calls that are coming from inside the house".)

A word to that particular flock of idiots: "The calls are coming from inside the house" is NOT a catch-phrase that everyone should be familiar with six weeks before the theatrical release. Because of that small slip up (of giving away the normally unexpected climax of the film), anyone who actually didn't see the original knew exactly what to expect. And I'm willing to bet that number is pretty high, since the original is usually hidden in the back of the video store with a lot of dust on the cover. It just wasn't as popular as classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen it played on the premium channels, let along on the late night cable channels sandwiched in between The Shining and... you guessed it ... Jaws.

But I did find one saving grace for this remake - the house was just fabulous. Yes, it's exactly the type of house that I'd want to be butchered in with a built-in water garden coming off the living room and a bathroom you need a road map to find your way out of. Truly a dwelling that could rival some of the ones featured in last month's Architectural Digest*.

I'm not going to ruin the film for anyone though, especially since it did a terrific job of doing that all by itself. I will say that they did make a few changes that I would have preferred that they didn't. And they set themselves up for a possible sequel that for those of us who are familiar with the original like to refer to as "the other half".

In a nutshell, if you are really turned on by cool architecture or just like hearing teenagers screaming their heads off, you might like this film. If you like psychological thrillers with complex plots that aren't spoon-fed to you before you even pop in the DVD, than don't even bother with this film.

And if you've never seen the original but did see the remake. Well, I suggest that you bash your head repeatedly against a brick wall until you can no longer recall anything about the film and then go out and rent the original. Trust me.

Film information: When a Stranger Calls

Original film: 

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