When a Stranger Calls . . . Don’t Pick Up

Sigh . . . “When a Stranger Calls” is a remake of the 1979 cult classic about a babysitter who is harassed by a sadistic stalker on the phone. Here’s the thing, though. That was only the prologue to the original movie (because even 70’s horror filmmakers knew that that wasn’t enough to make a good movie). Evidently, modern filmmakers thought just that was enough for a story. But don’t get me wrong. This is a great movie . . . so long as you’re teaching a course on how not to make a horror film.

Look, I know the story. Stop trying to jump-scare me before the actual antagonist even calls. And don’t introduce your protagonist as a whiny bitch. Not exactly endearing. That gets a (-1) on the I-care-about-your-protagonist-meter (we’ll start it at 10, for the sake of argument).

Hey, moron, when the house alarm goes off, don’t just turn it off and assume it was the maid. That makes you an idiot and means I like you less (-1).

Stop saying “Hello?” to empty rooms (-1).

Omigod, I know her stalker isn’t her goddamn boyfriend. Stop insulting my intelligence (-1)!

So a guy cheats on you (the protagonist) and you do nothing but sulk about it. Endearing (-1).

Hey, another jump-scare attempt–stupid cat (-1).

You were scared by the ice machine. Good God (-1).

Ok, having a character like the protagonist’s best friend (who was the one cheating with her boyfriend) admit that she’s a bitch, doesn’t make her sassy. It makes her a bitch. A bitch that I hate. And a reason to hate the protagonist because she doesn’t hate her as much as I do (-1).

And another thing. People have to have a reason to be scared. You can’t just have your protagonist scared of the dark so that you can build up the music for the cat to jump out (why won’t the killer kill that damn cat). You do remember that I don’t give a damn about your protagonist, right? So the lack of any attempt to get me to sympathize is . . . a clever ruse, right? Thank you, thank you for reaching deep into the barrel of clichés to pull out the panicked-teen-fumbling-for-her-keys-while-the-killer-stalks-her suspense builder. Man, I feared this movie would get boring. Ah, yes, and then you naturally follow it with the car-won’t-start one (you’re lucky this doesn’t involve the protagonist, ’cause that’d be a (-2)).

I get it. I get it. You want to build trust in me by only using tired clichés as a way of comforting me and lulling me into a dream-like state so you can really wow me when you veer from those clichés later in the movie. Man, I can’t wait! Sigh . . . fifty-one minutes into the movie . . . How long is thing? Eighty-seven minutes! Daaaaaaammiiiiiiiit.

Alright, a quick word about suspense. Suspense is the feeling of tension and dread associated with what I (the viewer) fear will happen. Now a word about remakes. I ALREADY KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN! Stop trying to scare me with eminent death when I know that the protagonist survives long enough for the police to trace the call. Every attempt to surprise me is going to fail until that point.

Sigh . . . alright, so what’s she doing now? Going out into the scary, howling, crescendo-building wind to check the guesthouse because she saw a light on there? Well as long as she doesn’t walk in and–goddammit! What did I tell you about her saying “Hello” to an empty room (-1).

Look . . . I’m gonna level with you. It doesn’t matter how whiney and panicky her voice gets, I’m not scared. I know she’s not gonna die. Not yet, at least and at the pace this movie’s going it won’t be nearly soon enough. And, whatever, she’s not gonna die because whiney bitch-protags never die. At least we might get a little blood . . . goddammit, the movie’s rated PG-13!

Thank you. Finally. An hour and five minutes into the movie, we finally get the “shocker” that the calls are coming from inside the house (a revelation that came 30 minutes into the original (not to mention in this movie’s trailer)). That leaves you . . . a mean twenty-two minutes to get me jumping. Good luck with that.

Oh, God. Now we not only have her whining all over the place, we have the kids crying too. Just having people crying on screen doesn’t make things tense (-1).

That brings us to zero. I’m now rooting for the antagonist. And I was kind. Most people won’t stay with her that long. Please, please, scary killer guy, kill her and the stupid kids too. The movie now has one sad, tired leg to stand on. And that’s just who this psychopath turns out to be. If the movie has any hope, it has to be someone meaningful to the protag. Unfortunately, I give about as much a damn about anyone the protag knows as I do about her.

Sigh . . . well, I don’t want to *spoil* anything, but I’ll tell you this. The ending didn’t wow me (the filmmakers did have one more cliché to exploit). To be perfectly honest, by the time the credits started rolling, I wanted to start stalking the protag myself. This movie doesn’t even warrant the time it takes to put links in this post. When a stranger calls . . . seriously, let it ring.

0 stars out of 5.

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