When a Stranger Calls (2006)

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
When a Stranger Calls (2006) Movie Poster Image
Pointless remake brings nothing new to the story.
  • PG-13
  • 2006
  • 83 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 68 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Babysitter is virtuous, protecting two young children against relentless stalker.

Violence

A disconcerting opening sequence (fairground images and screams, with no explicit violence, but a detective appears horrified by what he sees and bloody bodybags are removed from a house); in film proper, two bodies appear on screen (murders take place off); wind/storm outside is ominous; killer chases babysitter and kids, which leads to fighting (kicking and hitting), stabbing with a fireplace poker, throwing of furniture, bloodied and bruised face and limbs; cat eats a canary; another jump scene in an empty-seeming hospital room at film's end.

Sex

Discussion of a boyfriend's "cheating" (he kissed another girl while drunk); girls in close-fitting shirts; house features nude figures artwork (statues and paintings).

Language

Some strong language ("hell," "damn," two s-words, "a--hole," "skank," and "b---h").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One girl who comes to visit suggests drinking tequila, but babysitter asks her to leave.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this remake of a 1979 serial killer film features sustained tension and lots of dark corners in a large, isolated house. It includes mild language and several jump scenes (a cat out of the shadows, a body in a bathroom, scary shadows when doors are open or shut). The babysitter calls a couple of friends and worries that her boyfriend has kissed another girl. Wind blows, rain pounds, thunder claps. The killer calls repeatedly, breathing heavily or threatening the babysitter; when he appears (as a silhouette), the killer chases the babysitter and two young, crying children around the house. Two bodies appear (eyes popped open, images that may be disturbing for younger viewers), though murders are not shown. The film opens with a disturbing sequence, cutting between a fairground and an unseen group murder, comprised of loud screams, abrupt pans, tilted angles, and jarring edits.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydaisythebunny4597 November 3, 2020

some scares but thats all

my 9 and 11 year old watched this it made them jump a little but they were both fine.
Adult Written bydvdgirl March 3, 2020

Not bad.

It was alright I will watch it again.
Kid, 10 years old August 25, 2021

Little bit of jump scares but really good

This movie may be a little scary for other kids, but it’s not really scary. A teenage girl gets scary calls by a stranger. If this is the first horror movie tha... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byIamJasmine September 16, 2020

Not that scary...

So, the title seems kind of spooking so that's why i wanted to watch the movie. But when I watched it I didn't even get jumped scared not even once an... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on a well-known 1979 stalker film, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS centers on teenaged babysitter Jill (Camilla Belle), who is left in charge of two young children. Jill spends most of her time on the phone, talking to her friend Scarlet (Tessa Thompson) or estranged boyfriend Bobby (Brian Geraghty), both at the annual "bonfire party," some distance from the house. The focus of these calls is whether or not Jill will forgive Bobby for kissing her "best friend" Tiffany (Katie Cassidy), while he and Tiffany were drunk on tequila. In between these melodramatic exchanges, Jill takes repeated heavy-breathing calls from the "stranger" (Tommy Flanagan), who gradually reveals that he is aware of her actions and, in the yuckiest moment, exclaims that he wants her "blood all over me." Jill's efforts to rescue the children are heroic and even clever. The stranger stalks them throughout the multi-floored and big-windowed house.

Is it any good?

This movie is disconnected and clichéd. Using familiar camera tricks and scary shadows, When a Stranger Calls puts well-adjusted high school track team member and babysitter Jill in an isolated house, then assaults her with howling wind, an intermittently working alarm system, heavy-breathing phone calls, and a black cat jumping out of corners. Some 83 minutes after its start, the film ends, with no point or development in evidence.

The stranger's eventual appearance doesn't even offer further insight into Jill or the film's point. An implacable and big-eared silhouette, he pursues his victims until he doesn't. The film climaxes a couple of times, including a nightmare sequence that seems designed to challenge Jill's sanity. But like most everything in When a Stranger Calls, this challenge is unsupported by anything else.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Jill's responses to her increasingly alarming situation. How does her upset at her boyfriend shape her initial understanding of the calls? How does the film construct her aloneness as a factor in the threat to her and the children? Does she make good decisions (looking for Rosa, going to the guest house, hiding the children) when she realizes the caller's threat is immediate?

Movie details

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