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When a Stranger Calls

179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A terrified young baby-sitter...an incessantly ringing phone...and whispered threats set the stage for one of the most suspenseful chillers ever filmed. Carol Kane stars as the baby-sitter who is tormented by a series of ominous phone calls until a compulsive cop (Charles Durning) is brought on thescene to apprehend the psychotic killer. Seven years later, however, the nightmare begins again when the madman returns to mercilessly haunt Kane, now a wife and mother. No longer a naive girl, though still terrified, but prepared, she moves boldly to thwart the maniac's attack in scenes that culminate in a nerve-shattering conclusion.

Amazon.com

Released a year after John Carpenter's 1978 Halloween, this thriller by longtime actor-turned-director Fred Walton has held a strong following of its own. In an exemplary piece of suspense, the film begins with a babysitter (Carol Kane) fielding threatening phone calls while on the job. She soon finds that a pair of children in her charge have been murdered in their beds; she is nearly killed herself by the homicidal maniac before police arrive. As with Halloween, the action jumps some years ahead, when Kane's character is herself a wife and mother--and the monster escapes from a mental institution to re-create his original carnage in the heroine's own home. Between these exciting bookends, the film loses its way and becomes dissatisfying and obscure. But Walton compensates by engineering a couple of great horror moments worth savoring. Tom Keogh


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Product Details

  • Actors: Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Colleen Dewhurst, Rutanya Alda
  • Directors: Fred Walton
  • Producers: Doug Chapin, Steve Feke
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dubbed, Full Screen, Letterboxed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    PLEASE NOTE:
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 1, 2002
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005NRN7
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,200 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "When a Stranger Calls" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Billie Mann on February 27, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"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).
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
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.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Stanton VINE VOICE on September 3, 2005
Format: DVD
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.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Geekier than thou TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 10, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Beusch VINE VOICE on October 8, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
When a Stranger Calls, originally written as a one act play where a psychopath terrorizes a baby sitter via phone, was padded for the film, adding a middle where we meet the killer and an finale where the killer goes after the baby sitter again. I don't want to say much more about the plot other than to say that the middle part demotes this film from 5 to 4 stars for me. The film generates too much sympathy for the killer. For me, I would have rather had the director make the killer a faceless evil presence like Michael Myers in Halloween. In Psycho it was different as Hitchcock played the audience like a piano, transferring its sympathy from Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) to Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) after the shower scene. Even after being exposed as the murderer, Norman still elicits sympathy. However, the killer in When a Stranger Calls is a different case. His acts are so shocking and terrible that I felt the filmmakers should have made him less of an object of pity and more of a monster. Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, The Zodiac and Richard Ramirez have shown that monsters without redeeming qualities do exist.

However, this film is well worth watching for the first act alone. Carol Kane is able to shed the bubbleheaded weirdo image she was typecast into after Taxi and portray a three-dimensional character who is rightfully terrified of her psychopathic caller. The director, using ever decreasing lighting, evokes an increasing level of terror from the audience, leading up to one of the most jolting revelations in horror/suspense film history. The third act is very well done as well with one last shock that will scare the hell out of you.
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