Since PG-13 horror seems to be the ticket for Hollywood studios to follow (with only smaller Lionsgate seemingly unafraid to give us fans bloody, R-rated fare) it's no surprise that Asian movies and older thrillers are being brought back for consumption by studios trying to cash-in on a certain age bracket.
In order to pay down her cell phone bill, teenager Jill (Camilla Belle) is forced by her father to take a job babysitting on the night of a big party. Jill doesn't think it's very fair, but decides to try and make the best of it - especially when it turns out she gets to look after some kids at the fancy (and remote) lakeside house of a doctor and his wife.
Things start off pretty standard as she explores the house (which happens to have an indoor greenhouse-type nature room), checks the fridge for food, and spends some time on her cell phone talking to her best friend and trying to avoid calls from her boyfriend with whom she's fighting.
So it's pretty unlucky for her, then, when she starts receiving phone calls from a menacing unknown man who seems to know her every move and is threatening her and the children with bodily harm. If you've seen the trailers (which spoil the movie's only real "twist") then you should know what happens next as Jill finds herself trying to avoid getting killed by her assailant while a few others who happen to stop by the house end-up being knocked-off.
Another unnecessary remake, When A Stranger Calls is a dull redux of the 1979 flick (which I found overrated to begin with) with Belle's character given to spending 87 minutes looking frightened (oftentimes without reason) and doing stupid things (if you think a killer is outside, don't, I repeat DON'T, go charging out there to check the guest house!) as she fends off a killer - a killer who makes no impact on the viewer as we're given absolutely zero backstory (apart from the fact the opening scene shows another babysitter being killed 125 miles away in another small town).
Lacking any real sort of logic, loaded with the typical fake scares (yes, a cat does jump out from somewhere while the stock "pissy feline" sound effect plays), and sporting a musical score that's filled with constant foreboding music (even when it's not necessary); When A Stranger Calls is one drab time. It never plays on the isolation of its setting well enough to build any sort of suspense with Jake Wade Wall's script unable to give us any convincing characters to root for and even resorting to a rain storm to try and make things even more foreboding.
Director Simon West did a bunch of noisy action flicks before this (Con Air being the most prominent) and script Wall's next project is another remake as he penned the currently filming re-do of 1986's The Hitcher. (Chris Hartley, 9/3/06)
Directed By: Simon West.
Written By: Jake Wade Wall.
Starring: Camilla Belle, Brian Geraghty, Katie Cassidy, David Denman.