Saturday, September 4, 2010
#74 - When a Stranger Calls - 1979
The 4th film I decided to watch this week was the 1979 suspense thriller When a Stranger Calls. Not to be confused by the recent remake this was the original babysitter's nightmare film that scared the living crap out of babysitter's and parents alike all over the nation. I was only 3 years old when this film came out but I read about how this affected so many teenagers back in the early 80's and after seeing it I don't doubt why.
This was my third time seeing this film. The cast was made up mostly of three main characters. Jill, the babysitter at the beginning of the film was played by Carol Cane. The detective John Clifford was played by Charles Durning and the killer Curt Duncan was played by an actor named Tony Beckley. All of the actors were good in this film however this film unlike Cape Fear which I recently saw was not heavily driven by character portrayals. Still they were all good.
I remembered this movie being more enjoyable the first time I saw it and thinking it had a little bit more action but this time around it lagged to much in the middle of the film. For a movie with a run time of 97 minutes the middle portion of the film, probably around 55 minutes or so was pretty dull, boring, and uneventful. Thankfully there was the first 20 minutes and last 20 minutes which literally carried this film.
Let me just say this. Had I been a babysitter in the early 1980's there is a great chance I might never have babysat again after this film, seriously. Now considering most babysitter's are female and I was only 3 years old when this film came out I don't have to worry about that. I just said that because to me as simply a viewer of this film it scared the living daylights out of me what took place in the first 20 minutes of the film. Not like fake Hollywood theatrics but real scary stuff here. Like I mentioned before, real like stuff that seems like it "could" happen. Let me divulge further.
Jill (Cane) babysits for a couple and starts receiving crank calls which are sometimes hang ups but sometimes the caller, a male, in a soft creepy tone states "have you checked on the children". Ok right there, that is damn scary! Add the fact that there is a 2nd story to this house it makes it even more scary. These calls go on for a short time before she calls the police and they do a trace. In the last call she received that was actually traced the killer (Curt Duncan) answers Jill's question of "what do you want from me" with an answer of "your blood all over me". Creepy!! A few seconds later another call comes in and Jill screams thinking its the guy again but its the cops and they say the most chilling and spine tingling thing, that the call is coming from inside the house. At this moment I was dumbfounded and just thought to myself how scary that would be. All we see if her going to the front door and opening it and then there is a long steady frozen shot of Detective John Clifford. That opening scene of the film was easily one of the most terrifying one's in the entire movie. Truly scary!!
Curt Duncan eventually escapes 7 years later from a mental institution and the father of the two children murdered 7 years prior asks for John's help in finding the killer. He sets out on a search for Curt Duncan. In one weird scene there is a clip of Curt Duncan is watching a female leave a bar and the music that is played is so strikingly familiar to the music played for Digital Surround Sound before a dvd. Its just weird. During John's search for Curt we see Curt at one point reminisce in a bathroom while standing naked in front of the mirror. This scene was a little disturbing since there were short quick clips of this killer in the childrens bedroom standing over there bed covered in blood. Very creepy and surreal. After narrowly escaping John after a brief chase Curt Duncan goes after Jill who now has a family of her own with 2 young children and in fact she is heading out to dinner with her husband and leaving her children at home with a babysitter.
The final sequence of the film picks back up as Jill gets a call at the restaurant and the voice on the phone says "have you checked the children" and Jill screams out and falls to the floor in agony. This scene and the entire conversation her husband and herself have with the babysitting is so incredible unsettling and nerve racking that it was crazy. hey eventually raced home with police escort and found their children and the babysitter safely at home. That same evening Jill notices her son has a treat in his hand in his bed and Jill wonders how he got it. After laying back down in bed the killer Curt Duncan revels himself next to her and tries to kill her but after a short struggle Curt is shot and killed by John Clifford and all ended well for this film.
Overall I would say this was a great film for the suspense/thriller week however I had hoped it was better throughout the film and not only at the very beginning and end scenes. With that being said those 2 scenes were so good and so scary that it would still be enough for me to qualify this one as a really good film. Very scary, original, and terrifying if you ask me. I would easily give this film a B-!