When a Stranger Calls (2006)



Pointless remake brings nothing new to the story.
  • Review Date: May 15, 2006
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 83 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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


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.


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).


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

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.

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?


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. And so it hangs, disconnected and clichéd.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:February 3, 2006
DVD release date:May 16, 2006
Cast:Camilla Belle, Katie Cassidy, Tommy Flanagan
Director:Simon West
Studio:Screen Gems
Run time:83 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense terror, violence and some language.

This review of When a Stranger Calls (2006) was written by

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old July 7, 2010

Pretty Bad

Uuuuum..........This movie had nothing going on until the last 10 minutes, although the ending was very cliche.It was very boring and I would never recommend it to someone I like.
Teen, 17 years old Written byJacquieJonas May 12, 2010
I like this movie a lot, I watched it when I was 14 or 15 and I was not scared, although some children get frightened easily, it may not be the best for a younger crowd.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Adult Written bya_rayment April 9, 2008

One hell of a scary PG-13 movie!

Okay. This movie is rated PG-13 although it is much scarier than some R rated horror movies. It is mainly scary because this could happen to anyone in any house, and the fact that the movie is not filled with guns and just sheer terror makes this one hell of a roller coaster. The scariness could be maybe 9/10. The violence is quite gross but nothing really bad, just a man gets his hand pinned to the floor by a fireplace poker (shown 100%) and Jills hair gets pulled (maybe a quarter of her hair) and is ripped off her head. The sex is nothing (many nude paintings and statues but non-explicit)and the langauge is extremely mild. Scariness 9/10 Violence 3/10 Nudity/Sex 2/10 Language 2/10 Total 16/40 Rounded 4/10


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