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Have You Checked The Children?
When A Stranger Calls (DVD)
Member Name: plipplop
When A Stranger Calls (DVD)
Advantages: Cat meets bird
Disadvantages: Dodgy, dull, pointless plot - the trailer gives it all away!
Having fallen out with her parents over some minor misdemeanour, teenaged student Jill finds herself grounded, just in time for the annual high school bonfire party. Whilst her friends pass the evening at the wild, open air party, Jill has been signed up for a babysitting job and is driven out into the country by her father. Despite being disappointed at not being able to see her friends, she is astounded by the scale of the house in which she is to spend the night. A little luxury should go some way to taking her mind of the problem. After a brief tour of the house and facilities by the doctor / owner and his wife, Jill is left alone in the huge lakeside house, with only the two young children and the doctorís housekeeper for company.
Unable to concentrate on her book, Jill soon decides to explore the darkened house, but just when she is having fun dressing up in the doctorís wifeís jewellery, she hears the front door slam. Rushing back into the living room, she calls out to see who is there, but when nobody responds, believes it to be the wind playing tricks. But if the wind is playing tricks, it is certainly having a busy night. Strange noises reverberate around the house. Lights appear to come on and off and then the telephone rings. Alone in the house, Jill becomes increasingly unsettled as each time the telephone rings, a mysterious caller becomes more threatening. For Jill, this is going to be a long night Ė if she can survive that longÖÖ..
Do you like scary movies? If you do, then steer well clear of this one. Iíve found more frightening things on the bathroom floor. ďWhen A Stranger CallsĒ is quite simply 89 minutes of pure, unadulterated rubbish that only the most hardened movie goer will tolerate to the bitter end.
Essentially a stretched out version of the introductory scenes to Scream, the latest version of Stranger is a remake of the 70s movie of the same name. The premise doesnít strike me as something particularly crying out for a remake, given only that the plot relies on suspense and intrigue, rather than big budget and special effects, but here it is nonetheless. The story is very simple. A babysitter alone in a strange house gradually finds herself stalked by a threatening caller, who knows a bit too much about what sheís doing for comfort. Is he watching her from the woods, or is there something rather more sinister going on? Iíd like to leave it to you to find out for yourself, but unfortunately, if youíve read any other review, or even seen the trailer, youíll know exactly whatís going on.
Yes, thatís right. No spoiler alert and no sense of responsibility from the studio here as they blatantly and unbelievably give the game away in the middle of the cinematic trailer. I wondered whether I was being fooled. Were they trying to suggest that one thing was going on, when in fact something else would happen or there would a subsequent further twist or twists? The answer, sadly, is no. With ďWhen a Stranger CallsĒ what you see is what you get. And what I saw was cack.
It was cack on so many levels, Iíll give the director that. For starters, where it managed to secure a 15 certificate from, I shall never know. With not a sniff of blood or gore or the merest hint of any nudity, this appears to be one of those mad, modern movies where the certification board slaps something on it based on the premise of the story rather than anything we actually see. So what you have marketed as a horror film is simply nothing of the sort. At best, itís a slightly creepy thriller. At worst, itís a dodgy television movie.
Itís incredibly predictable (and not just because anyone whoís seen the trailer knows exactly where itís freaking going!). Itís like a routine. Girl arrives at house. House is marvellous, yet secluded (uh-oh, could that spell danger, do you think?) House is equipped with many marvellous gadgets, some of which are pointlessly introduced by vulnerable girl leaning on or tripping over them. Bottom line, us shrewd movie-goers simply know that they are introduced as a clue of things to come. A remote control, open-effect, but fake fire may not be the most desirable accessory in modern America but you can bet your bottom dollar itíll come in handy later. Sheesh. Who do they think theyíre entertaining, here?
Actually, I know the answer to this. 15 may be the certificate of the movie but itís also the average age of the target audience and as such the film is filled with teenage delights such as mobile phones, girls that are just like so hot and jocks that are just so hotter. After a brief (and rather corny introduction) the depth of our leading characters slips down into Vicky Pollard territory. It transpires, you see, that one of them has kissed one of the others ones whoís supposed to be going out with someone else who turned out to be such a bitch and she looks fat in those jeans anyway and oh my god her hair is so fake and it is so unfair because he is like so hot and she is so not and anyway letís get back to the story. If that kind of pointless teenaged drivel doesnít do it for you, then When a Stranger Calls is clearly not going to hit the mark.
In true keeping with the (more tired end of the) genre, people do some really daft things too. Despite having a state of the art intruder alarm, monitored by a surveillance camera, the alarm gets activated and everyone seems to think itís cool. Worse still, in spite of said security system, the cat seems to cause endless havoc (get ready to jump at the back) whilst the villain of the piece wanders round undetected. Somebody turns up to see our heroine and then runs into a spot of bother with a 1mm sapling on the road that somehow seems to block her passage out of there (like, whatever!) The corniest, most dreadfullest (donít care if thatís not a real word) is the fact that to inject a bit of peril, our heroine doesnít have problems with her mobile phone signal, but everyone else in the film does. Apart from the villain that is, because then he couldnít really terrorise our heroine, could he?
Our heroine Jill is played by a typically untypical American teenager (Camilla Belle).Itís not that sheís that bad. Itís just that sheís not very good and placed only really because she looks quite pert, in a young teenaged girl kind of way. The villain of the piece is played by two people. His telephone voice is Lance Henriksen (lovely telephone manner) and his physical person is someone else (Tommy Flanagan) who clearly has anger management issues. Itís hard to decide whether Flanagan is much cop or not because he isnít really in it long enough to make up your mind.
And thatís the killer blow. The film is so drawn out and so boring. It takes nearly 80% of the running time for Jill to fall deeper and deeper into peril and then finally the villain is exposed, with a bit of breakneck chasing around before it all draws to its inevitable conclusion. You wonít care what happens to Jill. You wonít care what happens to The Stranger. By then, youíll just want the bloody thing to end. I know I did.
Favourite moment was ďcat meet birdĒ.
(Favourite moment to be translated as only moment I actually liked just a little bit.)
Summary: Watch the trailer - it's all you'll ever need!