WHEN A STRANGER CALLS- THE REMAKE. 2006. DIRECTED BY SIMON WEST. STARRING CAMILLA BELLE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
The original film of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979), directed by Fred Walton, has one of the best opening sequences of any horror film I’ve ever seen. The first twenty minutes, with the babysitter alone in the house getting increasingly frightening phone calls from an anonymous psychopath, is pure cinematic perfection. The rest of the film is good too, but it’s those first twenty minutes that really grab you by the throat and scare you witless.
I was surprised to find out that such a great film had been remade. But hey, unnecessary remakes of brilliant films are seemingly where it’s at these days. This time round, Camilla Belle- what a pretty name!- plays Jill Johnson, the high school student who has to babysit for the super-rich doctor and his wife.
Jill isn’t too keen on the prospect as all her friends are at the school bonfire party and she would much rather be with them. She’s also fed-up because her so-called boyfriend has recently been caught snogging her bezzie mate. Ouch…! Dontcha just hate it when that happens…!
Her dad drives her to the doctor’s fantastic big house, with a pool and a little forest and a posh guesthouse and all mod cons and everything. He drops her off without even checking that it’s the right house. He could have been dropping her off at the Manson compound for all the attention he pays, the self-involved git…!
The doctor and his missus toddle off to their swanky soirée and Jill is left all alone in the huge, remote house in the middle of nowhere. Then the phone starts ringing and the anonymous caller starts asking once again:
‘Have you checked the children…?’
They’ve done a few things differently this time round. They’ve added a live-in maid, a son who may conceivably return at any time to the guesthouse where he lodges, and a completely implausible visit from a schoolfriend, incidentally the one who got off with Jill’s boyfriend. The little trollop…!
I mean, this chum is apparently able to find this out-of-the-way house in the arse-end of nowhere in the dark without any difficulty and get herself inside the doctor’s house without setting off the alarm. A bit far-fetched, if you ask me… In the remake, they’ve also gotten the children up and about and running around the place like mad things, something which didn’t happen in the original film.
They’ve basically expanded the first twenty minutes of the original film and made an entire movie out of it, which I suppose is good because after all those were the best twenty minutes of the whole thing. They’ve left out the killer’s back story, though, and the bit where Jill’s a grown woman with kids of her own and a husband. They’ve also left out the sub-plot which sees the detective searching for the killer.
The ending is good and the atmosphere throughout is actually pretty spooky, so this is by no means a bad remake. It’s really more a question, I feel, of whether the remake was strictly necessary in the first place. Some might say it wasn’t. Others probably feel that anything that’s out there is fair game for a remake.
And me…? I love ’em both, but the original edges it for me a bit because of the era in which it was made. That was a great era for horror. You can make up your own minds, though. There’s a lot to be said for both films. Let me know what you think. Don’t phone me, though. For the love of God don’t phone me. Send me an e-mail instead. Or write me a letter. At least no harm ever came from reading a letter, did it? Did it…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
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