So I was originally going to post this yesterday, but when I saw that the film was rereleased in theaters on October 17, 1980. Even though that isn’t the anniversary of the original day of its release, October 26th, I thought that since it was an anniversary of one of its release and just a day later: I just couldn’t help but post it today. Happy 36th!
So of course growing up in the 2000s, my first interaction with the film When a Stranger Calls was the remake. I have never seen the original film, and since I needed a choice from the ’70s, I thought why not finally check this one out.
So the film starts off with creepy music and just a blank screen with nondescript text. I don’t know about others but when films do this, it actually kind of hypes up the horror/creepiness because you have no real clue what will be coming next.
We have a teenage girl walking down a dark street with her books. She arrives at the house she is to baby-sit that evening and everything seems fine. The parents are ready to go out, possibly staying out a bit later if they decide to go to a movie. The children are asleep upstairs
Now what is interesting is so far the plot of the remake actually mimics this one. I mean they begin a little different with giving her a reason as to no cell phone (as the remake is modern), but the way the parents act and the dialogue is exact.
With the kids sick, Jill has the house to herself to do whatever she wants. Wow, what a pretty sweet gig.
Or is it?
Little does she know what the night will hold.
So Jill is relaxing, sitting on the couch and talking to her friend about Bobby, a guy they both are crazy about. It is weird seeing Carol Kane play a teenager she has such an adult voice. Her friend too. They sound as if they are in their twenties.
So the phone rings and there is no one on the line.
Phone rings again but this time Jill hears a voice
“Mysterious Stranger: Have you checked the children?”
Jill thinks it is just a prank and doesn’t even bother to look upstairs at the kids. In fact, she hasn’t looked at the kids at all since she came. I know she wasn’t supposed to disturb them as they are sick, but shouldn’t she check to see if they are alright?
The call comes again
“Mysterious Stranger: Have you checked the children?”.
Then she hears a sound in the other room. Creepy music rising.
Jill is a little freaked, and heads down the hall to look around. The kitchen light is off, and nothing is there. She hears something:
Just the ice machine. Whew. And don’t say that it was lame because some ice machines are weird. My old fridge sounded like an alien spaceship landing.
So the phone rings again
“Mysterious Stranger: Have you checked the children?”
This is super creepy to hear again and again. If it were me I would have gone upstairs. Actually truthfully, I never would have been in a situation like this. It was because of films like these my parents always had to have the kids come to our house when I would watch them.
But instead of checking on the kids, Jill goes to pour herself a drink. Bad baby-sitter bad. Bad idea.
Phone rings again….is it him?
She slowly reaches for phone, and the music starts. No one is on the line this time too. Even creepier.
Jill calls the parents to see if it was maybe them, but they aren’t at the restaurant, they left 40 mins ago.
So she calls the police and gets a Sergeant Sacker. Jill tells him about the phone calls that she’s been receiving every 15 mins; but because there are no threats or obscene language the police don’t think it a big deal, just a friend or random weirdo.
So we get great shots of the house and around Jill. The camera is always in the front or behind but never exactly her height, and mostly far away, as if we are the man watching her.
The phone rings again.
“Mysterious Stranger: Why haven’t you checked the children.”
Jill looks out the window
But outside there is only pitch black darkness. Now I have never liked my windows open or blinds up. I just don’t like the idea/feeling someone could be watching me. After films like this and real life events of people watching and attacking others, I feel even more that it makes a lot of sense to just keep them closed.
After watching that scene I just creeped myself out, and had to check all my doors and make sure my phone was beside me.
Jill also freaks out and tries to secure the house.
I can’t believe she had the door unlocked the whole time. Then again it is the ’70s.
So she’s finally going upstairs to check on the children, but then gets another call. WHAT’S UPSTAIRS???? DID HE KILL THE KIDS??? WILL HE KILL HER TOOO??????
She lets the phone just ring and ring this time. Although she does grab a cane, good job. You should carry something just in in case. Kudos for you!!!
But she never checks on the children.
…I just thought of something. What if they are the dead kids and babysitter from the beginning of the remake? Would they do that? Reveal the end of the old in the new? Well I guess it isn’t really a reveal as you should have watched it before the new one.
But still, this is driving me crazy!!!
Jill calls the police again. She tells him tht he is watching her, but the police don’t really believe her as she didn’t see him and the house is locked up. The police tell her that if he calls again they will try and trace the call. But the problem is that she will have to keep him on the phone for 1 min.
Jill sits waiting, a fireplace poker now in her hands and vigilant. BUT SHE NEVER CHECKED THE CHILDREN!!! They are dead I just know it….!!!!!!
The phone rings…
Nothing and then it is him!
“Jill Johnson: Can you see me.
Mysterious Stranger: Yes.
Jill Johnson: I turned the lights down, I can turn them up if you like.
Mysterious Stranger: No, don’t.
Jill Johnson: You really scared me, if that’s what you wanted. Is that what you wanted?
Mysterious Stranger: No.
Jill Johnson: What do you want?
Mysterious Stranger: Your blood all over me.
I SHOULD HAVE WTCHED THIS DURING THE DAY WHAT WAS I THINKING!!!!
This film is super creepy. I need a weapon near me too. In fact this guy is super creepier than the new one because he is calm the whole time as he talks to her.
Phone rings again, but it is the sergeant. They traced the call coming from inside the house. She needs to get out. But where is he? They show scenes of every part of the house she has been in and he isn’t thereeree!!!
Jill starts to open the front door, the door upstairs opens and we see a shadow as he is coming after her!!!!!!!
We then zoom in on a face!!!!!!!!!!! IS IT HIM??????????????? AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It turns out that it is the police detective. This was what the beginning of the remake is based on. So the children are dead, and we see them carried out in black bags. The damage was so horrendous that the coroner was surprised the weapon was the killer’s bare hands. They caught him in time, so the babysitter is fine, but how fine?
But we are only at the 22 min mark?!! What else is coming? So far I think this is the scariest film I have reviewed this year just based on that opening scene alone!
So now it is seven years later, and I have no clue what is coming next? Is he going to track her down and try to kill her? Try to finish the job? Hmmmm…..
So the police detective has quit the force and become a private investigator. He has been asked by the father of the murdered children to hunt down Curt, the killer, as he has recently escaped from the insane asylum he was in.
“Dr. Mandrakis: Man murders two children in cold blood. Jury declares him insane. He is sent to a state institutional facility where the security isn’t perfect and escapes.”
The detective is on the case to hunt dow Curt no matter what. He heads to the institution and goes to speak to his doctor to find more info. Interesting how in a lot of ways this and Halloween are extremely similar.
We are now in a bar and see a man, is he Curt? Man tries to give a light to a lady but she ain’t having it. He’s British, so he must be Curt, and is trying to pick her up but she is not interested at all.
After that first part of the film which was so intense and chilling, this section is really boring.
Why should I care. Its like they made the adrenaline pump so much and now we have this bleh stuff, it just feels bad and boring.
We see a ’70s party, with the PI there. He speaks to a police officer from the force who agrees to help him.
Now you all know how much I don’t like remakes, but I have to admit the 2004 version, while their killer wasn’t as creepy as this guy, really knew how to give you what you wanted. They kept it focused on what was scary and played it up even more having the girl isolated with the house so far away and no car.
So Curt follows the lady from the bar, to right outside her door. The phone rings and she answers. He gets inside and she is not as freaked out as she should be that the guy she refused followed her home, marched into her apartment, and will not leave. Eventually she kicks him out end scene.
The PI is still investigating. You know I would find this a lot more interesting if they had flipped the film, had the babysitter attack at the end and the search at the beginning. I guess that’s why they did it that way in the remake.
So the PI tracks Curt down to the lady’ house and wants to talk to her. She doesn’t want to talk to him, but he barges his way in.
He shows her a pic of man blah blah not interested skip, skip skip
The lady is worried, as she thinks Curt might be following her, and the PI waits outside. But Curt is already indoors. It turns out he was hiding in her closet. She is making tea and when she goes to the closet Curt is not there.
Okay, this is getting creepy agin. He’s not hiding behind the closet door either. Curt doesn’t kill her though, as he wants her to be his friend. She screams, he flees, the PI chases him but doesn’t catch him. Bleh Skip. Curt goes to bathroom, naked and looks at himself and cries. Whatever. SKIP. Now at the YMCA and the cop is looking for him, Fast forward The two chase, run fight, chase, run, PI lost him again. Curt gives a long soliloquy, boring.
Next scene we are in a nice neighborhood, with cute kids running about. It turns out they are Jill’s kids. The phone rings….is it Curt?
No just her husband Steve on the phone. He’s going to take her out to dinner so Jill needs to get ready and find a baby-sitter. Two kids; one boy and girl just like the ones she lost when sitting.
Jill puts them to sleep and a teenager, Sharon, comes to baby sit. They recreate the scene from the beginning; mom and dad are heading out and the sitter staying. So similar, I mean even the house looks similar just reversed. All say good-bye.
You know I’m surprised the PI never went here. I mean doesn’t he think the guy might go after her again?
So Jill and Steve’s dinner are interrupted by a phone call. Jill goes to answer. OMG it is HIM!!!
“Mysterious Stranger: Have you checked the children?”
He’s back, he’s on the phone. He’s after her kids!!!
The husband calls the baby-sitter and they ask her to check on the kids. The police have been called and they tell them the story. They call the baby-sitter again, but the LINE IS DEAD!!!!!!!!!
They drive home with the police and everything is fine. But is it really? Or is he hiding in the house?
OMG what is going to happen next??? Is he going to kill them???
Steve pulls out gun to protect them while they sleep. Now I would not go to sleep or stay there. They are crazy! I would check into a motel asap.
Back at the police station they are talking about the call. Was it him or just a copycat. The police friend calls the PI to check it out, and makes sure there is a stakeout.
Jill can’t sleep and goes downstairs to the kitchen, the lights go out.
IT IS HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The PI keeps calling, but just gets the busy signal. Jill checks on the kids again. She sees her son with an ice cream in hand, not even melted. Where did you get it?!!!!!! It wasn’t there earlier. In fact it is the same one SHE had that night. OMG HE WAS IN THE ROOM WITH THE CHILDREN! OMG IS HER HUSBAND DEAD!!!!!!??????
Is he in the closet??? She approaches it! NOOOOOO Don’t open without a weapon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nothing is there but clothes. The PI only gets dial tone. Hurry the line was CUT!!!
huHURRYRRRRRRRYRYRYRYRRY OVERER THERE AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!
Where is he??? Where???
Jill decides to settle in bed, but can’t go to sleep. She picks up the phone but discovers that it is DEAD just like she will be!!!!!!!!!
Take the gun!!!! Grab it!!!
She hears Curt the killer’s voice, but where is he? Or is it just in her head??? She tries to wake Steven in bed, but its not her husband! It’s Curt!!!!!
He attacks her, but is shot. Who shot him???
The PI. OH No Where is Steven? Is he dead???? No just knocked out in the closet.
OH MY GOSH!!! That was way scarier than I thought it would be. That end image of his eyes over the house, always watching ooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
This was amazingly creepy film. I mean just skip the middle and this is phenomenal. It lingered in my mind and continued to scare me when it was over.
So after the film I checked that question about Carol Kane’s age. She was 27. I thought so, her voice was waaaaay tooo deep.
So it turned out that this director made the short film The Sitter, which was pretty much the first 20 mins of this film. After Halloween came out in 1978, the director decided to make a full length film based on what The Sitter was about.. So I was right. That middle section was so close to Halloween, because of Halloween.
To start Horrorfest V from the beginning, go to Who You Gonna Call?: Ghostbusters (1984)
For the previous post, go to No Mere Mortal Can Resist the Evil of the Thriller: Thriller (1983)
For more on When a Stranger Calls, go to It’s Coming From Inside the House: When A Stranger Calls (2006)
For more psycho killers, go to The Butcher of Burtonsville High: The Death of the Queen Bee, Bones (2010)
For more films with anonymous phone calls, go to There are Thirteen Chairs at the Table…And That’s Unlucky: Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)
For more slasher films, go to We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes: Psycho (1960)