When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
Another psychopath haunts another baby sitter in this made-for-TV sequel to the 1979 feature When a Stranger Calls. When prim schoolgirl Julia (Jill Schoelen) accepts a last-minute baby-sitting assignment from a doctor and his wife (Kevin McNulty and Cheryl Wilson), she follows all the rules: She studies diligently, checks often on the kids, and refuses to open the door for strangers -- even when a stranded motorist asks to come in and call his auto club. Julia offers to call for him, but the phone is dead, and rather than alert a strange man that she's without a link to the outside world, she lies and says they're on their way. The man returns to the door repeatedly, angrily wondering why help hasn't arrived; as he continues to badger Julia, she notices things aren't right in the house. Slips of paper disappear, doors mysteriously unlock themselves, the children vanish, and Julia barely escapes with her life. Five years later, Julia is an introverted college student with some heavy-duty locks on her door. Nevertheless, she starts getting that familiar feeling that something isn't right. Enter Jill Johnson (Carol Kane), survivor of a similar baby-sitting atrocity many years earlier. Now a guidance counselor at Julia's university, she offers to help the girl track down her stalker. With the help of an old friend, private eye John Clifford (Charles Durning), Jill picks up the trail of a disturbed ventriloquist (Gene Lythgow). But when Julia ends up with a bullet in her head in an apparent suicide attempt, even John thinks Jill's investigation is a wild goose chase. Reuniting stars Carol Kane and Charles Durning with writer/director Fred Walton, When a Stranger Calls Back features another horror veteran in its cast. Jill Schoelen previously starred in 1990's Popcorn. … More
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Critic Reviews for When a Stranger Calls Back
It's a decent nail-biter that plays on the tension it builds up, despite its gaps in logic.
Audience Reviews for When a Stranger Calls Back
I saw this on YouTube after I read that somehow the director built an opening sequence that lived up to the original's. And it's true. The first 15 minutes or so are expertly crafted -- and the victim is as smart as possible in conversation with an unseen Big Bad Wolf.
For the rest of the movie, the director keeps up his method of using longer takes with silence and darkly lit, deep compositions to increase tension. Our eyes go searching for spaces and moments where the generic scare might leap out at us. For the most part, he keeps us tense and guessing in the shadows. It's a unique gift he deserves credit for.
The plot investigates the events of the opening sequences, and perhaps spoils it a bit with strained rationalizations. Kane and Durning are great, and great together, but parts of the script just don't make it. Nothing in the movie compares well next to the dread of the beginning, except maybe two weird scenes. In one, the killer starts rapping the tummy of someone who doesn't want to play anymore and in the other, he does an uncomfortable stage act and then camouflages himself in an alley.
Campolongo more or less says it all. Tension is kept tight throughout, Walton really knows how to squeeze every once of suspense out of these kind of films. There's a few great twists (one of the main characters is knocked out of the action half way through). Nice to see the original stars once again especially Carol Kane who gives it her best & wont take any of this "Shes just a mixed up kid" crap from the cops. Wipes the floor with the first one which people really only remember when you quote the line "The calls are coming from inside the house!"
A great made-for-TV movie which doesn't suck! Perhaps better than the original film, because this has horror and stalking scenes throughout. The opening scene is chilling and superbly written.
It begins with a young babysitter alone in a big house, and some guy banging on the front door, saying his car had problems and he needs to come in and use the phone, but then freaky things start to happen from there. The killer torments the girl throughout the course of the movie.
Offering assistance are the experienced cop (Charles Durning) and the post-trauma babysitter (Carole Kane), both from the first "When A Stranger Calls" film. They investigate the alleged stalkings, and help track down the spooky dude, who has some crafty voice-throwing and concealment skills, making him harder to catch. I liked the weird scene in the bar with the ventriloquist act. The end battle is unbelievable in what the killer does.
The first film will always be considered a classic, but had a flawed middle act. This one is more consistently scary throughout, though largely overlooked.
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