When the Wrong Man Directs
Having gone over her allotted 800 minute cell phone allowance, high school student Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle) has to baby-sit for Dr. and Mrs. Mandrakis (Derek de Lint and Kate Jennings Grant) in order to pay her father back for her over spend. But not long after the Dr. and his wife leave that she starts getting a series of what she thinks are prank calls. When the calls don't stop and the threats become more frightening Jill contacts the police who trace the call and tell her that the caller is in the house.
What's your favourite scary movie? No I am not asking you but just reminding you of the opening scene of Wes Craven's "Scream" where Drew Barrymore after receiving a scary phone call ends up sliced and diced by a mystery man in a ghost mask. Well that opening scene was inspired by the 1979 movie "When a Stranger Calls" and the 2006 movie by the same name is in truth less of a remake but a movie which elaborates on that idea, the baby sitter receiving a prank call before learning the caller is in the house and the hide and seek starts. Simple enough and whilst it means there is nothing really new going on in "When a Stranger Calls" the end result should be a tense, edge of your seat horror thriller.
Unfortunately director Simon West was not the right person to be put in charge of this movie as whilst he knows what to do when it comes to the unsubtleties of an action movie lacks the subtleties to deliver the tension of a decent horror movie. As such West's "When a Stranger Calls" ends up feeling like a procession through a selection of cliches from story elements to the camera work. On the subject of which it often feels like someone has sat down and watched a collection of classic thrillers and cherry picked the visuals which they liked and then incorporated them into this movie right down to the upward facing camera angle when Jill is on the phone.
In truth the cliche feel to "When a Stranger Calls" is not its only issue and sadly whilst we get some back story to Jill as she has to baby-sit because of breaking her cell phone allowance and has boyfriend problems as her friend kissed hers these don't really help to develop much of a character. As such whilst Camilla Belle has that teen horror movie look you won't remember her for her performance in this. In truth about the only thing you might remember about "When a Stranger Calls" is the house as it has a semi high tech/ high luxury look about it.
What this all boils down to is that "When a Stranger Calls" is an underwhelming horror thriller which has a whole host of issues from over reliance on cliches to poor writing. But for me its biggest issue is in the fact that action director Simon West was the wrong man to helm this sort of movie.