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Parents' Guide to

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

By Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Grim psychothriller with a few teen urban legends.

Movie R 1979 97 minutes
When a Stranger Calls (1979) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 1 parent review

age 16+

Scary movie from 1979, ghost stories were created because of it.

Violence: 6/10- There are some bloody moments, and physical fighting. A character is stalked. Sexual Content: 5/10- Some un graphic nudity and sexual disscussion. Language: 2/10- Some mild language like d*mn and h*ll. Drinking and drugs: 4/10- Alcohal is seen. Frightining scenes: 7/10- This movie is frightining.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (5 ):

Most of When a Stranger Calls is a ploddingly realistic, depressingly downcast crime drama. This movie came to theaters with the dreaded 'slasher' movie craze that included the original Halloween, Friday the 13th, and other R-rated fare that centered generally on teens slaughtered by fiends. It doubtlessly influenced the Scream series, with the murderer who tauntingly telephones victims in advance. But this chiller, to give it its due, is pitched on a more mature, suspense-based level than just gore and titillation. It would likely receive a PG-13 today. Still, it's one grim picture. Hitchcock's Psycho had more humor. What morsel of a moral the tale contains is a (very faint) implication that being hunted down for vigilante execution by Clifford is what pushes Duncan over the edge again.

There are none of the later slasher ingredients of slumber parties, teen sex, unsupervised campgrounds, and dumb pranks in cheerleader locker rooms, and you could say that When a Stranger Calls, at least in its opening and closing, does a much better job in capturing the simple creepiness of a campfire maniac-with-a-hook-hand anecdote than did the later Urban Legend and I Know What You Did Last Summer series that strive to hook young viewers. Still, it's pretty disturbing stuff for tweens. There's also the issue of revenge in the plot, and whether Clifford's deadly mission is at all justified. While history has chosen to pigeonhole When a Stranger Calls as low-grade horror, the same question of vengeance and morality came up with more emphasis on the ethics in the upscale Jack Nicholson drama The Crossing Guard.

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