If you were reading the blog yesterday, you will be aware that I watched The Sitter – the 1977 horror short about a babysitter who is terrorised by a mysterious telephone caller. As discussed in the previous post, The Sitter had a lot of potential but it wasn’t as creepy as it could have been.

Anyway, two years after its release, the short – directed by Fred Walton – would go on to inspire a feature length movie called When a Stranger Calls (also directed by Walton). Today I am going to watch said movie, to see if it manages to improve on what The Sitter started.

I’ve heard good things about When a Stranger Calls – and I’ve previously watched its sequel (which is great) – so I’m very excited to give this one a whirl. So here goes.

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*Clicks play*

1min – I can tell you straight off the bat that this movie is going to be scarier than The Sitter. The music used during this opening sequence – which introduces the babysitter (as played by Carol Kane) – is much, much spookier.

3mins – The setting, some of the dialogue, even the name of the babysitter are all lifted from that original short. The difference here is that the tone has been greatly improved.

4mins 55secs – “Have you checked the children?” It begins! The anonymous caller has started ringing the babysitter.

Image: ©Columbia Pictures

9mins – I can’t help but feel that if someone was constantly ringing my house phone, asking me if I have “checked the children”, I’d just take the receiver off the hook. Also, I’d pull the phone line out of the wall, chuck the phone in the trash, then set fire to the bin… just to be safe.

17mins – The narrative continues to follow the same story beats as The Sitter, but I’m genuinely feeling terrified now. It just goes to show how important music and lighting are to creating the right atmosphere.

22mins – As with The Sitter, the caller has been telephoning from inside the house… and he has killed the children. The b@$tard!

23mins – You know, it’s strange how you can watch the same story in the space of 24 hours and get a very different outcome. The Sitter had potential, but When a Stranger Calls has nailed it!

30mins to 1hr – OK, while the film continues to play out, its time for a few thoughts/observations:

  • A seven year time jump
  • An escaped killer
  • Charles Durning
  • Yet more creepy music
  • Erm… a distinct lack of Carol Kane
Image: ©Columbia Pictures

*Checks time*

OK, so now I’m about an hour into this film and while the opening has been the strongest part of the movie so far, it’s still holding my interest. Director Fred Walton has expanded on his short to craft a tense thriller, with a seedy underbelly. It’s bloody good!

1hr 7mins – Damn! A brief glimpse into what the killer did at the beginning of the movie.

1hr 17mins – Oh… and now Carol Kane is back! Things are linking up with that opening sequence.

1hr 25mins – The final twenty minutes of the movie bring Kane back into the fold so she can be terrorised once more. It is a really effective way of drawing the film to a close, to ensure the tension mounts once before the film concludes.

Great stuff!

*Clicks stop*

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When a Stranger Calls is regarded as a classic and rightly so. This was a solid film, that demonstrated how you can take a simple idea and transform it into a fully fledged story.

I loved the sequel, When a Stranger Calls Back – which I watched as part of 90 from the ’90s – and I loved this film too. I’m so glad I finally got around to watching it (even if I did watch the films out of order).

Oh, and why has it taken me this long to watch this movie?

Erm… I have a lot on, OK?

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post about When A Stranger Calls. For more posts, check out one of the recommended reads below.

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