10 Years: “When a Stranger Calls (2006)”

I was going to say something interesting and potentially funny about remakes, but I can’t bring myself to think of anything. There’s nothing interesting or funny about them. They suck. More often than not, they’re wastes of time and will only further show how studios should stay away from them. Look! I said something.

The Screen Gems film “When a Stranger Calls”, is an absolute travesty. A waste of a good first act from a film that could handle building suspense a lot better than this one.

This uneventful thriller stars Camilla Bell (“Diablo”, “Amapola”), Brian Geraghty (“Chicago P.D.”, “Chicago Fire”), Katie Cassidy (“Legends of Tomorrow”, “Arrow””), David Denman (upcoming series “Outcast”, “Angel From Hell”), Derek de Lint (“Flikken Maastricht”, “Crossing Lines”), Kate Jennings Grant (“Billions”, “Madam Secretary”), Tessa Thompson (“Creed”, “Selma”), Madeline Carroll (“Scandal”, “R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour”), Arthur Young (“Southland”, “Invasion”), and Clark Gregg (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, “Thrilling Adventure Hour Live”).

The film was directed by Simon West (“Wild Card”, “Stolen”) and written by Jake Wade Wall (“Devil’s Backbone, Texas”, “Cabin Fever: Patient Zero”). It is a remake of the 1979 film of the same name.

The film originally opened on Feb. 3, 2006.

In all honesty, I have no idea why I decided to sit through almost an hour and a half film that was bad before I even started it. I knew it would be, yet I saw it anyway. Mind you, this isn’t the first time I’d seen this film. I saw it either 10 years ago, in theaters, or sometime after that, which makes it a little over nine years, but whatever. I still saw it. I’m pretty sure that by this point in 2006, I’d never seen the original, so this seemed like a good idea. They usually are until you see the actual film. I must say, that even while I expected crap, I still hadn’t fully realized what sitting through this film this time would be like. It was painful.

Let’s see, what’s worse? Hmm… Nope, not that. No, not that. Okay, actually, it was all bad.

This film is populated with stupid characters that having boring high school drama following them. It’s so boring, I wanted the creepy stranger to come in and kill some people so I didn’t have to hear anymore about how Cassidy made out with Geraghty, which really upset Bell. It just became annoying and tiresome, which isn’t all that surprising if I remember my high school days correctly. None of this was helped as this was the main way we were introduced to the characters, and it hung around for the entire film (more or less), like a really bad running gag. Enough is enough! Oh, and let’s not forget that these characters came to life through a lot of bad acting.

Sometimes in films introducing characters is hard. I get that. Okay, but the way this film went about it, didn’t exactly help when I was trying to be hopeful that things couldn’t get any worse. They could and they did.

I know a lot of films these days still use cliché approaches to scaring audiences, and I partly blame this period in the mid to later 2000s, if not a little before then too, for this. This film was littered with one bad jump scare after another. Helping along the way, the bad jump scare set up, which is supposed to convey dread and build suspense, but only made me irritated. I’m surprised I didn’t throw something at the screen. Every “suspense” or jump scare moment in this film was absolutely wasted. It wasn’t simply that I wasn’t scared, but more that what West and Wall decided to use as the “scary” set up, turned out to be a cat or nothing, or in some cases just a creepy hallway in a big house. Honestly, for most of the film, and this is what pissed me off more than I thought it could and had me hating Bell’s characters, she allowed herself to get scared of a big empty house. Yes, it turns out the house wasn’t as empty as it should’ve been, but she didn’t now this for most of the time. There were prank calls, big whoop. For a large majority of the time they’re were just annoying. Not threatening at all. I don’t think it was until almost an hour in, more than half the film, that the stranger started to show his true motives. She got scared over nothing. Granted, Cassidy too got scared over nothing. Ooh, a storm. Wind blowing. Fallen branches. Ooh. Be afraid. Fucking kill me. These people are so stupid, I’m surprised the killer bothered with them.

There’s no easy way to say this either, but I got so hung up and distracted by a lot of little things in this film, that all it did was make it harder to watch. They one I hate the most is that Bell’s friend, played by Cassidy, is supposed to be calling the Mandrakis’ home phone and on it, with caller ID working and all, is her name. How? Last I checked that’s not actually how caller ID works? Bell is the babysitter. Did she program in her friend’s cell number when she got there in hopes of talking with her. She is the same friend after all that made out with her boyfriend. I’m not buying it. Then, another great annoyance, is her discovery that the housekeeper is still around or just in the aviary. Seriously, the way some of the situations were set up just didn’t make sense. Motion sensor lights, but when when Bell walks through the lights in the hallway and aviary are off, and only when we get there is it revealed that the housekeeper (I didn’t care to pay attention to her name), is inside feeding the birds. This requires movement. How does this set up work then? Afterwards, Bell just assumes the housekeeper left, only to discover she’s been murdered. She never went to look for her, or suspect that she left or anything. She says she did, but didn’t do a good job of it. I guess the big house was too scary. It’s the reason I hate these types of films and characters that populate them. The logic doesn’t ever make sense. Mind you this was just some of the things that annoyed me and made me hate this film, there was plenty else.

Lastly, and I care not to go on too long, the score. It was terrible. Seriously, composers need to stop making the scores like this. They always suck!

Remakes suck. Remakes suck. Remakes suck. Let’s not spend any more time with this film. It was bad. Far worse than I could’ve imagined. I stopped paying attention at some point, actually 20 minutes were left, so not bad. I also was fine with this as I knew nothing but a game of cat and mouse was left. This too was badly executed. I do really wish I hadn’t chosen to see this. It’s only made me certain that steering clear of remakes is the best way to go. The original film may not be all that great, but it’s certainly better than this steaming pile. When will studios learn?


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