'When a Stranger Calls'
And she checks them, right, and they're all okay? And then the guy calls her back and asks her how they were, and she knows he's been, like, watching her the whole time!
So she calls the cops, right, and the guy on the desk tells her that the next time he calls, she should keep the guy talking for at least 60 seconds so they can trace it? And when he does call back, she keeps him on the line long enough, and the cops call back to tell her THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!
That, essentially, was the big hook of Fred Walton's 1979 slasher thriller "When a Stranger Calls," which starred Carol Kane as the terrified babysitter. Simon West's remake updates the story to the present day, but sets the action in areas with lousy cell coverage, so it's more or less the same story: Scared girl, big house, lurking maniac. Just add a jumpy soundtrack and a cat jumping out of a closet, and you've got a license to print money, right?
The new version of "When a Stranger Calls" has been produced on a bigger budget and with a lot more Steadicam shots, but it doesn't even deliver the cheesy entertainment of the original film. Director West ("Con Air") orchestrates the first hour's suspense with mechanical, predictable precision ... and then blows the sitter stalker's reveal so badly that the movie never really recovers.
That said, Camilla Belle deserves some serious respect as the babysitter: Since the kids are asleep and the Stranger is just represented by Lance Henriksen's disembodied voice, she carries a good two-thirds of the picture entirely by herself. And while slowly freaking out over the course of one very long evening is perhaps not quite as dramatically challenging as playing Daniel Day-Lewis' sexually confused daughter in "The Ballad of Jack and Rose," it's an impressive performance all the same.
Sony's enhanced-widescreen DVD offers the standard supplemental suite: Audio commentary from Belle and director West, a second track from screenwriter Jake Wade Wall, two very brief deleted scenes and an 18-minute production featurette in which everyone hits the mandated "it's a thriller, not a horror movie" talking point, and pretty much nothing of consequence is discussed.
STUDIO:Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2006
TIME: 87 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: French audio dub; English and French subtitles; audio commentaries; deleted scenes; production featurette.
INTERNET SITE: haveyoucheckedthechildren.com