When a Stranger Calls - DVD review

3.5 out of 5
£20

For

The emergence of newcomer Belle – a dark-haired Elisha “24” Cuthbert lookalike. Nice. A fast-paced, twisting narrative, the impressively designed hill top setting

Against

The stick-thin plot, yet another cack-handed killer who couldn’t hit a barn door from five feet away, A lack of blood may alienate hardcore horror fans

Yet another remake of a “classic” 70s horror (surely there can’t be many left now?) that no-one has ever heard of. After racking up a hefty $500 mobile phone bill talking to her dimwit boyfriend, high school student Camilla (Belle) is forced into taking a babysitting job in a remote hilltop house to pay her parents back. After putting the kids to sleep and raiding the well-stocked fridge (watch out for a none too subtle lollipop sucking scene) she settles down for a hard night’s loafing in front of the TV, but then the phone rings…

The opening scene from “Scream”, where Drew Barrymore is harassed by a mystery caller, was taken directly from the original “When a Stranger Calls”. And this 2006 remake takes that 15-minute idea and stretches it out over an hour and a half, binning the rest of the original story.

The best thing about Simon West’s underrated slasher-thriller is the shocking final twist, so watching it again when you know what’s coming probably isn’t worth the bother.

For this reason it seems rather strange that there are two separate talk tracks (director West and his buxom heroine feature in the first, screenwriter Jake Wade Wall in the second) for viewers to chose from, as it’s unlikely that anyone will bother sitting through it all again once, let alone twice.

Of the two, West’s is the most interesting – although it’s all relative – as he describes the difficulties he faced stretching a 15-minute concept to fill a feature-length version.

Elsewhere, there are a couple of deleted scenes that were obviously cut because they move the action away from the house, ruining the claustrophobic atmosphere that West strived so hard to create.

Verdict

Unsurprisingly, this makes for a fairly anorexic plot but director Simon West builds the tension impressively until the shocking final twist (try to avoid watching the trailers or talking to anyone who has seen the original) and Belle does a decent job as the damsel in distress - not least because for eighty per cent of the film she is all alone on screen.

Other than that it’s all fairly formulaic stuff with a typically un-coordinated killer, dopey plot holes (why do they need a babysitter when the housekeeper is there?) and moments of suspense shattered by a cat knocking over something noisy.

Critics have complained that there is less gore than in the original but this modern day remake is more of a thriller than a horror, and not a bad one at that.

Rating: 15
Staring: Camilla Belle, Tommy Flanagan, Katie Cassidy, Tessa Thompson, Brian Geraghty, Derek de Lint, Lance Henriksen
Directed by: Simon West
Extras: Audio commentary from director Simon West, Audio commentary from the film's screenwriter, Deleted scenes, 'Making Of' featurette