Review

When a Stranger Calls Review

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Feb 03, 2006 | 8:53am EST

Hands down there is nothing more frightening than to be babysitting alone in a large unfamiliar house while simultaneously being terrorized by a homicidal maniac who keeps calling and asking if the children have been checked. The original 1979 Stranger certainly hammered this point with a young Carol Kane as Jill Johnson the hapless babysitter. In this update high schooler Jill is played by Camilla Belle who has taken the doomed job in a beautiful but remote hilltop house complete with surrounding lake an indoor aviary and lots of windows. When the eerie phone calls start up Jill’s panic turns to abject terror when she finds out the calls are coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE! What’s a girl to do? I guess running out of the house down the driveway and onto the road without ever looking back is out of the question. Kinda tough to carry a movie all by yourself at such a tender age but Camilla Belle seems to handle the role of plucky heroine with aplomb. Some may remember this dark-haired beauty as the little girl who gets chomped on by those nasty mini-dinos at the beginning of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Then two years ago she got glowing reviews as Daniel Day-Lewis’ daughter in the indie gem The Ballad of Jack and Rose. Now all grown up she’s making her way into more mainstream fare. Playing Jill she’s got all the makings of a model scream queen: breathy wide-eyed and ultimately way too brave as she investigates every single weird noise she hears. And when it comes time to kick some psychotic killer’s butt she’s convincing enough. Director Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Con Air) had some pretty big shoes to fill updating a cult horror classic like When a Stranger Calls. From an older generation’s point of view the first 20 minutes of the 1979 movie were perhaps some of the scariest moments ever. Yet in this day and age of supernatural anomalies videogame nightmares of virus-induced mutated zombies and Scary Movie spoofs a simple story of a babysitter being terrorized by a real-life psycho may not make a dent. Or will it? Sure  West uses every clichéd trick in the book--from the foreboding music to setting the stage in a creepy isolated locale. But the mere fact this scenario could really happen to any unsuspecting teenager out there whose only source of income might indeed be babysitting this  Stranger may make a lasting impression on our horror-addicted youth.

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