I purchased this bastard against my better judgement, as the back of the box helpfully explained the transfer was 1:33:1. Since i knew the film had been made for tv and my online research revealed no widescreen edition avaliable, I gambled that perhaps 4:3 was its original aspect ratio. As soon as I popped it in though, and the infamous "this film has been formatted from its original version to fit your screen" message reared its ugly head, I knew I had been fucked.
Right from the start, the film toys with your expectations. An early phone call to a babysitter leads to nothing, and it turns out we can't even hear what is said on the other end of the line. Not long after, there is a knock on the door, and a young man claiming his car broke down begs to use the phone. The babysitter, sensibly, does not let him in and so the opening sequence is established. If you've seen the original, the film continues to use your knowledge against you. Events from the first part are tweaked and the result is that the film is enhanced by experiencing Stranger 1 rather than diminished.
Well directed though the opening is, there are problems with it, and they are only magnified as the film goes on. The original was a very plausible thriller, this one is much more typical horror fare, where a stalker goes through an inhuman ammount of trouble to mortify a young girl. It is no more plausible than a typical genre production. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ending. It is undeniably a creepy image (you'll know it if you see it) but the ammount of trouble it would take to generate is indescribable. This guy has a seriously skewed cost-reward system.
Carol Kane returns and her performance is, once again, fantastic. Her character here is much older, harsher, working at a women's crisis center. She sells every nuance of her character. Charles Durning returns as well, though his presence is simply an excuse the writer gives himself to keep the police from being involved.
Our stalker here, because of his line of work, has some intriguing abilities which he puts to good use. The problem is that the idea of someone from his line of work behaving as he does (something about it just seems so...hillarious) is so ridiculous that it takes away from the tension.
If the writing is sloppy (and at times just plain bad) and the direction (surprisingly) uneven, the film does have a few highlights. A hospital visit from our boy is very unnerving, the opening has its moments as does the finale. They are not enough for me to fully recommend the film, but it is much smarter than it would first appear. Particularly for a made-for-tv production.