When a Stranger Calls (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

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Movie Info

In this thriller, a baby-sitter is terrorized by an anonymous telephone caller who turns out to be a particularly persistent serial killer. When a stranger calls to ask, "Have you checked the children lately?" teenaged sitter Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is understandably spooked. After a series of increasingly creepy calls culminates in a request for "your blood...all over me," Jill learns from the police operator that the man is calling from inside the house. One narrow escape and two dead children later, the police capture British maniac Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley). Several years later, the killer escapes from a mental institution and plagues Tracy (Colleen Dewhurst), a hard-drinking New Yorker. Foiled by John Clifford (Charles Durning), the same cop who investigated the original case, Duncan sets his sights back on his original victim, Jill Johnson, who, now married and out to dinner with her husband, has left her own young children at home -- with a baby-sitter. When a Stranger Calls helped inspire Drew Barrymore's famous opening scene in Wes Craven's Scream. Kane, Durning, and director Fred Walton would return for 1993's TV-movie sequel, When a Stranger Calls Back. Beckley died a year after the original film's release.
Rating:
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre:
Horror , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Cast

Carol Kane
as Jill Johnson
Charles Durning
as John Clifford
Tony Beckley
as Curt Duncan
Tom Beckley
as Curt Duncan
Rutanya Alda
as Mrs. Mandrakis
Carmen Argenziano
as Dr. Mandrakis
Bill Boyett
as Sgt. Sacker
Ron O'Neal
as Lt. Charlie Garber
Heetu
as Houseboy
Rachel Roberts
as Dr. Monk
Joe Reale
as Bartender
Ed Wright
as Retired Man
Louise Wright
as Retired Woman
Carol O'Neal
as Mrs. Garber
Dennis McMullen
as Maintenance Man
Wally Taylor
as Cheater
John Tobyansen
as Bar Customer
Sarah Dammann
as Bianca Lockart
Richard Bail
as Stevie Lockart
Steven Anderson
as Stephen Lockart
Lenora May
as Sharon
Randy Holland
as Maitre D'
Trent Dolan
as Policeman
Frank DiElsi
as Policeman
Cheryl Wilson
as Mrs. Shifrin
Arell Blanton
as Policeman
DeForest Covan
as Policeman
Charles Boswell
as Policeman
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News & Interviews for When a Stranger Calls

Critic Reviews for When a Stranger Calls

All Critics (12)

Two movies, one sandwiched inside the other, and the two movies have completely different goals, tones, and arguably even genres.

Full Review… | December 5, 2016
Antagony & Ecstasy

...the movie's absolutely enthralling opening 20 minutes is, unfortunately, followed by a narrative that couldn't possibly be more anticlimactic.

Full Review… | May 13, 2015
Reel Film Reviews

Grim psychothriller with a few teen urban legends.

Full Review… | December 15, 2010
Common Sense Media

Seus vinte minutos iniciais e finais (ou seja: as seqüências envolvendo Carol Kane) são suficientemente tensos, mas o longo segundo ato que traz a investigação feita pelo personagem de Durning jamais empolga.

April 1, 2006
Cinema em Cena

The ultimately slow-moving film is book-ended by some truly classic horror movie moments.

Full Review… | January 30, 2006

Aggravatingly devoid of suspense.

Full Review… | January 30, 2006
Lessons of Darkness

Audience Reviews for When a Stranger Calls

This was originally based off of a short, which is the first twenty minutes of the film, and it obviously shows. The creators tried to build off of it, but lost all the suspense by shifting the genre from horror to dull thriller. While I believed the film would be about a cat and mouse game between a babysitter and a killer on the phone, that's only the first part of the film. The rest of the film revolves around the killer and his escape from a sanitarium. Instead of making him creepy and perverted to an extreme degree, much of the film humanizes him by showing his exploits after he escapes. The film does share with us how he has killed, and the depravity in those actions, but we see none of it. How are we, the audience, supposed to be scared of someone who we constantly see being afraid, alone, and pathetically misunderstood? There's absolutely nothing tense or thrilling about the intermingling middle hour of this film. Even when Charles Durning's character tracks the killer down and blows a door off its hinges, it's more comical than anything. The very end is at least thrilling, but it comes too little too late after sitting through the tiresome slog of the middle.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

When a Stranger Calls is a pulse pounding horror film. This is one of those films that use suspense to build effective horror to create the tension on-screen. Director Fred Walton crafts a tension filled horror film that combines suspense, terror with a few slasher film elements and crime film rolled into one film. The thing that impressed me about When a Stranger Calls is the fact that director Fred Walton keeps the gore on a down low, unlike so many other horror films in the slasher genre of the 1980's, this one relies more on the suspense factor to build up the terror and tone of the entire film. Like with every viewer, I have to say that the first twenty minutes of this film are the most terrifying and intense; ion other words, it starts the film off with a bang. I enjoyed this film and I think it's a very good concept for a horror flick. I think the fact that the film limits its gore factor much like Halloween did, adds a lot more credibility to the film. The acting is good here, and the actors deliver memorable performances. When a Stranger Calls is different, and it's a film that blend psychological horror with a few slasher elements, but isn't a straight forward bloodbath. When a Stranger Calls is a terrific horror flick that uses traditional horror elements to create the horror that we see on-screen. The result is a terrifying and memorable film

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

After being locked up for seven years in an insanse asylum for murdering two children, a psychotic Englishman escapes his confines and is loose on the streets of New York. The opening 15 minutes are a real nail-biter and the film ends in a similar fashion too with a couple of genuinely frightening moments. The suspense lets off during the middle parts and things move along at a slower pace, but the menace and threat is always there with the chilling performance by Tony Beckley, which would be his last film after passing away due to cancer just after completing the film. A real good thriller for those that don't mind low body counts and zero gore.

Lee ?
Lee ?

Super Reviewer

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