Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Movie Review: When A Stranger Calls (2006)

 In 1977, Director Fred Dalton made a chilling short film titled The Sitter, which will eventually turn into the feature length film, When A Stranger Calls, released in 1979. The movie is notoriously known for those terrifying 12 minutes, a very good introduction of the movie, bringing us in with its hair-raising and suspenseful feel. The rest of the film is....meh. Once the second act hits, it becomes this boring crime thriller, mostly focusing on the detective and the unhinged killer. And just to fill this in, When A Stranger Calls is not what I particularly call a horror film. It's more of a hitchcockian thriller just like many films I reviewed, playing the lines of horror and drama. To be honest, the only thing memorable about the original is those first 12 minutes. There was a 1993 sequel that I enjoyed much more but a remake was in store somewhere.
So 27 years later, When A Stranger Calls Remake was released in February 2006. Let me assure you, somebody had the brightest idea to make the first 12 minutes the whole entire film. I'm not joking. All it consists of is the main character lounging around the house, getting the strange phone calls, going from the main house to the guest house, freak out some more, get a call from her friends, gets a visit from a friend, and THEN figures out the call is coming from the house. How in the hell could I focus on a main character this dumb?
So yeah, I actually went to the theaters to see this piece of crap and suffice to say, I practically wasted my five dollars. That's it and that's all.

Characters? What characters? Trust me, guys, the only character I could only focus on is Jill herself and she's a goddamn idiot. Sure there are her friends who seem to be much more blander and dumber than her but there's not anything to elaborate here.
In the original, Jill is more of a supporting main character than a full on protagonist. The only times  we do see Jill is the first 12 minutes and sometime around the third act. But it was the brilliant performance of Carol Kane that fleshed out the character than the script did.

So what we've got in this version is Camilla Belle as Jill and throughout the movie, she basically does...nothing.

All she is just a terrorized babysitter who is constantly creeped out by the house and by the strange phone calls. So all that we know of Jill is that she's grounded for a very costly cell phone bill that she has to pay off, which is how she gets the babysitting gig. You want to know how she got the overcharged cell phone bill? because she caught her friend kissing her boyfriend, which resulted into getting into arguments with said boyfriend over the phone. Ridiculous Teen Melodrama, oh my! In the original, it was treated much subtly. Jill was sort of in a love triangle. She and her friend happened to like the same guy, however, they have an understanding with each other and it's resolved. But in this version, the drama of this is overlylong and unnecessary just for a way to manipulate the film's running time.

The main thing is, really,  is Jill useful as a main character? Let me get this off the bat, Spoiler Alert! the kids actually survive this time, although, I don't think it was the stranger's intention of killing them, aside from killing three minor characters. So Jill eventually saves the kids, I will at least give her points for that. But throughout the movie she is completely out of her limit. Technology has changed since 1979 and there is a thing called Caller ID and the massive use of Cell Phones. There would be a way for Jill to trace the call and badda bing badda boom, all is solved but the film would've had a much shorter running time. So the majority of the movie, Jill is pretty damn useless. And again, there's nothing more I can say. Camilla Belle is a good actress with a lot of potential but she is just wasted in this movie and she deserves better than this. So Jill in this version is a massive disappointment.
So what's there to say about Jill's friends? The big o'le BBS. Boring, Bland, and Stupid.

The most 'developed' of the three friends(and I say developed loosely) is Tiffany played by Katie Cassidy. She's your typical dumb blond in a horror movie, getting involved in love triangle with Jill and her boyfriend. So there goes the reason why I don't like this character.

In the original, she was a minor character where her and Jill would have a brief conversation, but instead, in order to reconcile with her friend, Tiffany drives all the way to the house on the hill to visit her. How she know the directions I don't know.

All in all, she's only there to be killed off anyway.

Scarlett played by Tessa Thompson, is the smart, reliable friend, the voice of reason but there's nothing more to the character besides that, So I guess I should move on.

Then there's Bobby played by the very hot Brain Geraghty. He's the boyfriend who was caught in between Jill and Tiffany, trying to reason everything. And if you want to feast your eyes on Brain Geraghty, sorry he's only a got a couple of scenes to show for it.

Last but not least, we have The Stranger played by Tommy Flanagan and, to my surprise, Lance Henriksen, who does the voice. Now what I like about the original is how out of the blue the made The Stranger sympathetic, even though he murdered two children. It was scary in a way of how you think this person is a harmless, weak man but having forgot that he's capable of murder, even murdering someone with his bare hands.

The Stranger in this version, though, is your typical standard slasher villain, even so far as having a body count of three. There's not anything else really, since they kept him more mysterious. That's ok, that's alright but there's hardly any character development or certain clues about The Stranger, So he's left a blank space.

Okay, here's one of my biggest problems I have with the movie, and it's the setting. What worked in the 1979 film is that it was set in a quiet suburban neighborhood, possibly one of the best settings in a horror film, having the feel to be more frightening and uncertain. But now in this version, it's set in a remote house on the hill, making it incredibly obvious. The directing and suspense is just as disappointing. It's very slow burn to the point where you want to fall asleep.
There's really nothing for me to say here, so let's just get it over with.
The Verdict? Definitely the original. I wouldn't call it one of my favorite movies but it had the right kind of suspense and a lot of effort to make it realistically spine-chilling. The remake, however, is your typical standard teen horror film which is low on scares and tension, making the movie a bore to watch.
My Last Word: Please do not waste your time with this crap. Nobody should witness this.


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