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When a Stranger Calls
When a Stranger Calls
Actors: Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Colleen Dewhurst, Tony Beckley, Ron O'Neal
Director: Fred Walton
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
R     2006     1hr 37min

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Movie Details

Actors: Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Colleen Dewhurst, Tony Beckley, Ron O'Neal
Director: Fred Walton
Creators: Fred Walton, Barry Krost, Doug Chapin, Larry Kostroff, Melvin Simon, Steve Feke
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Sony Pictures
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/31/2006
Original Release Date: 10/26/1979
Theatrical Release Date: 10/26/1979
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 37min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
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Movie Reviews

Very scary without being gory
Billie Mann | USA | 02/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

""When A Stranger Calls" came out the year after the original "Halloween", and although it is not as widely acclaimed or known, it's just as scary, if not scarier, in a much more subtle manner.

The film starts off with Jill (Carol Kane), a young babysitter minding two small children for the evening, the children having already been put to bed for the night by the parents before they leave. She begins to receive anonymous, frightening phone calls with the caller ominously asking, "Have you checked the children?" and "Why haven't you checked the children?" then hanging up. Scared, she calls the police, who at first tell her to calm down, then instruct her to try to keep the caller on the line if he calls again, so the call can be traced. When she obliges and they trace the call, the real terror starts. I remember when I first saw this film, and my reaction to this revelation was unparalleled by any film I had seen at that time.

I am trying not to give away too much - if you haven't seen this film, be careful of other online reviews; I came across several that were real spoilers, and without any forewarning.

The first part of "When A Stranger Calls" is very fast-paced, then the middle part takes the audience seven years ahead; Jill is now a married mother. The film slows and becomes more of a psychological study; the criminal from the beginning sequence has escaped from the asylum. Along his wanderings he comes across Tracy (Colleen Dewhurst), a tough barfly he fixates upon. John Clifford (Charles Durning), who was the police detective investigating the original case, re-enters the scenario to try to track down the escaped madman, Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley).

This part of the movie is slower but much more interesting, in my opinion, and shows how scary a film can be without any real gore factor. Tony Beckley (in his last role) is very convincing as a murderous madman; his careful and understated portrayal make the character Curt Duncan even more terrifying. Colleen Dewhurst's performance as Tracy helps this part of the film move very well (she was always an extremely good actress) and she makes Tracy's toughness, vulnerability, and smarts very believable. Charles Durning as Detective Clifford is a typical part for him, and he handles it well, with his usual street-savvy tough-guy exterior aplomb.

The direction by Fred Walton, and the subtle, creepy soundtrack help push this film beyond the realm of being just another standard 1970's scream-inducing shock flick."
Still scary
Kevin Stanton | Pittsburgh | 09/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I would have to agree that Carol Kane is the engine in this movie. Her acting is superb as the frightened babysitter and later victim of a madman.
The first 18 minutes are relentless and memorable (similar to the beginning of the first 'Scream' flick). The director draws the tension so tight you sit literally on the edge of your seat.
The last 18 minutes are equally as taut. However, the middle of the movie is slow and could have been written much better.
I still gave this movie 5 stars because it still holds the thrill... even if it's only in the beginning and the end."
One of the greatest horror films ever made
Kevin Stanton | 11/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When A Stranger Calls is not only better than any of the "stalker" movies to come after it, but it is a very sophisticated film. I find the arguments about the middle being boring to be vacuous in the extreme. These critiques have missed the brilliant story writing that puts the former killer into a role so pathetic that the audience is made to feel sorry for him, and casts the former hero (Durning) in the role of the villian. By the end of the film, this plotline flips yet again when the killer resumes his former identity. This whole role-reversal theme is so refreshingly different from the "faceless killer with butcher knife" borefest we've been subjected to for the last twenty years! It's too bad this movie gets passed over in most histories of the modern horror film genre, because it's the best of them."
Have you checked... the children?
Shelley Gammon | Kaufman, Texas USA | 07/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I saw this with my parents when I was in 6th grade... I can't believe they took me to see this disturbing film! I just stopped having nightmares last year. It was such a popular film, however, that about every kid in my school had seen it and before such phrases as "Where's the Beef?" and "Show me the money!" became part of pop culture, everyone was saying, "have you checked the children?"Seriously though, this film isn't for children. It's true life horror and even more true to home in these violent days we live in. When this film came out, no one ever heard stories about Polly Klaas or other children abuducted from their own bedrooms, or intruders entering a home for any purpose other than burglary. Sure, it happened... but it wasn't as prevalent as it is today.Not contented enough to kill two young children with his bare hands, the antagonist intends to finish off the babysitter as well. Carol Kane is superbly convincing as the terrorized babysitter and Charles Durning does a stunning job as the police detective that won't rest until he can get rid of this guy for good. Slow in some places, but they're really just getting you calm enough so that scare the wits out of you when you least expect it.The film is most focused on psychological terror... you really don't see much violence, you just hear about it and expect it. It may seem a little unsophisticated by today's standards, but it will scare the willies out of you."