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Original Vs. Remake: When A Stranger Calls

Aug. 27, 2014by: Mike Catalano
We had a lot of great comments regarding the films from our last Maniacal Original Vs. Remake. Though both versions of Maniac got some lovin, the raw intensity of the original still won out. Better luck next time, Frodo.

For today's O Vs. R, we are dialing up a creepy little number that definitely makes a babysitter think twice before checking the children. I'm talking about WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. So, take the phone off the hook and turn off you cell because I don't want anyone interrupting this battle!

Story
Jill is babysitting two kids one night and begins to receive a bunch of creepy phone calls from an unknown man. Freaked out, she calls the police to get a trace on the caller and ends up getting the worst possible news in her life... the calls are coming from inside the house! Thankfully, the murderous caller is apprehended, but seven years later the psycho escapes. Tough cop, John Clifford, is on his trail and through him, we get to really learn how insane this killer really is.
Basically, the remake takes the masterful first 25 minutes of the original and stretches it out into 86 minutes of unscary, unsurprising scary movie cliches. Sure, the house that Jill is babysitting in is much larger to allow for more drawn out chases from the psycho caller. The house is also conveniently in the middle of nowhere to further add to the one-note set up.
Acting
Carol Cane and her soft, high-pitched voice is pitch perfect as both babysitter Jill and the 7 years older version. Her reactions to the phone calls really up the scary. Charles Durning is top notch as Officer Clifford. His obsession with finding and killing (not arresting) the psycho is very believable. Lastly, Tony Beckley is unnerving as that crazy phone-calling stranger. His demure look combined with those crazy eyes are a nightmare.
Camilla Belle is definitely easy on the eyes and not a bad actress at all. She does come off a little dull at times, but does an okay enough job carrying the film. Clark Gregg is, of course, great in an all too small role of Jill's father. I kinda wish he was babysitting at the house with her. Tommy Flanagan is pretty generic as the supposedly psycho stranger. He definitely does not leave a lasting impression of fright like the original's killer.
Special Effects
This one really isn't all about the special effects. The main effect here is tension. Sure, there are a few instances of blood and gun shots, but nothing overly intense. There aren't any explosions or car chases either. I mean, the voice work over the phone is good, but I'd hardly consider that a major special effect.
The remake also isn't real heavy on the special effects. In fact, there are even less here than in the original. There's one tiny burst of fire from an automatic fireplace and a fire poker stab through the hand. The blood is minimal and quite uneventful. Nothing happens.
Intensity
Holy shit, if you aren't on the verge of shitting your pants through the first 20 minutes in this film, you must already be dead. This film thrives on tension and intensity and delivers it in spades. It does a wonderful job taking its time, setting up the scene for the scare. You are on the edge of your seat for the full running time and it's a hell of a ride.
There are a few little jump scares in effect here. The music plays a big part in sustaining the suspense. However, since they were going for a PG-13 rating, the phone calls do not pack any gut-punching shock. Plus, NOTHING happens for a f*cking hour! Also, this thing features the cheap cat jumping out scare tactic, which in these days of horror, should be considered a cardinal sin.
Hot Chicks
I'd say that Carol Kane is more cute than hot. It's more of an innocence thing with her. Other than that, there really aren't any other women in the film that would be filed under the category of a hottie. No nudity, no sex. No true nubile flesh. Not on this flick's check list.
Now, Camilla Belle is hot, fantastically hot. Her face is absolutely gorgeous; the stuff dreams are made of. Those eyes just pierce right through you and yes, she's got a body to match. The hottie factor is further helped along by Katie Cassidy as well as a little MILF-ish action from Kat Jennings Grant.
Directing
I will say that Fred Walton is a master of suspense. Don't believe me? Then I guess you haven't seen the original When A Stranger Calls. The man has his thumb on our pulse and instinctively knows how and when to get it racing. His setup of scenes, especially in the beginning and at the end ramps up the suspense brilliantly. From the simple use of a refrigerator ice machine, he is able to mine miles of fright.
Sorry, Simon West, but you need to stick to directing Nicolas Cage on a plane full of convicts. Besides a pretty tight opening with some swift shots of danger, the rest of the movie is a drag in more ways than one. This movie is sorely lacking in any true suspense or creativity. He also doesn't know how to take his time setting up a scare the right way. I wouldn't be surprised if this remake put you to sleep.
When A Stranger Calls 1979
Well, that was a near shut out. I really feel that the When A Stranger Calls remake was shit and an insult to the original. I have a feeling that many of you are going to agree. However, if anyone actually liked the remake better, please give us a reason in the bullets section below as to why we shouldn't think you just escaped from a mental institution. And if you have any flicks you'd like to see in this column, give me a shout at mikecatalano@joblo.com.

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11:38AM on 08/28/2014

Was there any doubt the original would win by a landslide?

Love it or hate it, most original movies are going to be better than the remakes. Ever since 2000's rolled along, horror movies are a dime a dozen on the remake front. None of the remakes have been any good and compared to their originals, they have no reason to exist.
Love it or hate it, most original movies are going to be better than the remakes. Ever since 2000's rolled along, horror movies are a dime a dozen on the remake front. None of the remakes have been any good and compared to their originals, they have no reason to exist.
Your Reply:



3:26AM on 08/28/2014
I couldn't STAND the original! And funny as it may be, I'm actually one of the few that liked the remakewhich I watched first. I don't exactly recall what it was that I hated so much about the original, but I do remember thinking it was super, super slow and boring as fuck. If I watched it againwhich I won'tI could probably give you a HUGE list of things I had a problem with.

I enjoyed the remake SO much, that I've actually added it to my "Top 20 Slasher Films of the '00s."

Oh, and
I couldn't STAND the original! And funny as it may be, I'm actually one of the few that liked the remakewhich I watched first. I don't exactly recall what it was that I hated so much about the original, but I do remember thinking it was super, super slow and boring as fuck. If I watched it againwhich I won'tI could probably give you a HUGE list of things I had a problem with.

I enjoyed the remake SO much, that I've actually added it to my "Top 20 Slasher Films of the '00s."

Oh, and yes, Camilla is BEYOND sexy in the remake.
Your Reply:



1:49PM on 08/28/2014
Tell me what you find so worthless about the remake. It doesn't have to be a huge in-depth analysis, but I wouldn't hate it if you said something 'directly' about film. Don't worry, I'm not here to debate you on your opinion. I'm just curious. =)

Personally, I love that they remake classics. Why not? Sometimes they suck, sometimes they don't. If anything, a remake just brings awareness to the original, and the genre. Now, would I rather have original material as opposed to remade material?
Tell me what you find so worthless about the remake. It doesn't have to be a huge in-depth analysis, but I wouldn't hate it if you said something 'directly' about film. Don't worry, I'm not here to debate you on your opinion. I'm just curious. =)

Personally, I love that they remake classics. Why not? Sometimes they suck, sometimes they don't. If anything, a remake just brings awareness to the original, and the genre. Now, would I rather have original material as opposed to remade material? Sure, but why not build the genre with both? I don't think the lame "Friday the 13th" (2009) film 'hurt' the genre in anyway. Hell, its nineteen million dollar budget returned forty-something million in the first weekend. You know what that tells me? That tells me the genre is alive and well, my friend. But most people don't love the genre enough to concern themselves with its future.

Plus, Friday the 13th (2009) had Julianna Guill's 'stupendous' boobies, and a hilariously enjoyable moment with Willa Ford. =D

I wouldn't expect somebody like you to understand a list like mine.
11:39AM on 08/28/2014
Nobody cares kiddo. Your top 20 list is officially deemed worthless when you have this on there.
Nobody cares kiddo. Your top 20 list is officially deemed worthless when you have this on there.
12:23PM on 08/27/2014
Of course, it's the original. The remake along with the remake of Black Christmas and Prom Night are worthless.
Of course, it's the original. The remake along with the remake of Black Christmas and Prom Night are worthless.
Your Reply:



+1
12:09PM on 08/27/2014
Is anyone really going to disagree with this? The remake is probably one of the worse movies ever made.
Is anyone really going to disagree with this? The remake is probably one of the worse movies ever made.
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3:28AM on 08/28/2014
Hello. =)
Hello. =)

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