WHEN A STRANGER CALLS
Directed by Fred Walton
Written by Steve Feke and Fred Walton
Cinematography by Don Peterman
Music by Dana Kaproff
Cast: Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Tony Beckley
1.85:1 Anamorphic/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from Columbia Pictures/Sony DVD
Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is babysitting at the Mandrakas home, when she begins to receive terrifying calls telling her to "check the children". They don't stop and she calls the police. Eventually, they trace the call. It is coming from inside the house. The cops catch the killer, Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley). But, seven years later he escapes from the mental institute. The cop, John Clifford (Charles Durning), who arrested him is now a PI. He is determined to stop and kill him once and for all. But the killer has his sights set on Jill, now a mother, herself.
The film's first twenty minutes are expertly directed by Fred Walton. It is nail-bitingly suspenseful and easily one of the scariest beginnings in any horror film. For this reason alone the film is considered a classic, of sorts. Many a critic states that the film falls apart after this, and I both agree and disagree. After this, the film starts off holding some degree of suspense, but in the end the stuff with the PI is simply put not as interesting as the killer terrorizing Kane. So, some of this part ends up dragging as a result. But the film kicks it into high gear again, when Kane's character returns. The last fifteen minutes do a good job of bringing back the scares.
As far as gore goes, well there really is little, aside from bloody flashbacks and a few bits of violence here and there. The film has no nudity, aside from the killer's ass. STRANGER ultimately cares more about suspense then gore or exploitation, and it is certainly acceptable in this case.
The cast is quite good, with Beckley playing a suitably disturbed killer. Meanwhile, Durning is quite good as well as the obsessed but heroic cop. Kane is great in her role. She real adds a lot of heart and emotion and makes us fear and care for her. Everyone else is quite good as well.
The DVD comes courtesy of Columbia and Sony DVD. It is featured in anamorphic widescreen. The picture has a few moments where it looks good, but for the most part it has much artifacting and the colors are very soft. These become more evident in scenes that happen at night or in the dark or have heavy shadows. And since this flick has a lot of that, it is easy to notice the picture quality's short comings. The sound is mono, but it comes off loud, crisp, and clear.
The DVD has no real extra features, aside from two trailers: I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (ironically enough, considering this film has its own inferior remake, it's the 90s remake that's featured), but it doesn't come with it's own trailer! Truly fucking lame! The movie is broken up into 28 chapters. The menu screen is static and OK, at best. The DVD comes in a keepcase and has a truly lame-o cover. It also comes with no inlay card.
This Film Features:
Review by Giovanni Deldio. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©