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  • Writer's pictureStephen Yanni

When a Stranger Calls (2006) - Chilling but Predictable

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)

Released 02-03-2006

Watched 05-18-2024

Reviewed 05-27-2001

Watched on Max

"Jill, Jill! We traced the call! It's coming from inside the house! Do you hear me? It's coming from inside the house!"

The 2006 remake of “When a Stranger Calls” directed by Simon West, delivers a suspenseful yet somewhat predictable thriller. This modern retelling of the 1979 classic captures the essence of its predecessor but falls short of the original’s chilling impact.

The story follows Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle), a high school student who takes on a babysitting job at a remote, luxurious house. As the night unfolds, she receives increasingly menacing phone calls from an unknown stranger. The tension builds as Jill realizes that the caller is closer than she could have imagined. The plot remains faithful to the original film, focusing on the initial 20-minute scare sequence from 1979, which is stretched into a feature-length narrative.

Camilla Belle delivers a strong performance as Jill, capturing the character’s growing fear and determination. Her convincing and grounded portrayal makes her stand out in an otherwise formulaic film. The movie’s setting, a sprawling and isolated mansion, adds to the atmosphere, with its shadowy corridors and vast, empty spaces enhancing the sense of dread.

One of the strengths of this remake is its visual style. Director Simon West employs a sleek, modern aesthetic that appeals to contemporary audiences. The cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr. effectively uses lighting and angles to create suspense. The sound design is another highlight, with eerie ambient noises and a haunting score by James Dooley that contribute to the film’s unsettling mood.

However, despite these positive elements, the remake lacks the originality and impact of the 1979 version. The extended runtime dilutes the intensity of the premise, leading to moments that feel padded and repetitive. While the film tries to maintain a slow burn, it occasionally veers into predictable territory, with jump scares that are more telegraphed than surprising.

The supporting characters, including the absentee parents and the obligatory love interest, are underdeveloped and serve more as plot devices than integral parts of the story. This lack of depth makes it difficult to become fully invested in the narrative.

In summary, the 2006 remake of “When a Stranger Calls” is a competent thriller that offers some genuine scares and a strong central performance. However, it doesn’t quite live up to the original’s legacy, primarily due to its lack of originality and reliance on genre conventions. It’s a decent watch for fans of suspense and horror, but those seeking the terror and story telling of the 1979 film might find this version a bit underwhelming.


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