When a Stranger Calls is a 1979 psychological horror film. It was directed by Fred Walton and stars Carol Kane, Tony Beckley and Charles Durning. It was followed by the 1993 made-for-television sequel When a Stranger Calls Back and a remake in 2006.
High school student Jill Johnson is traumatized over an evening of babysitting by a caller who repeatedly asks, “Have you checked the children lately?” After notifying the police, Jill is told that the calls are coming from inside the house…
When a Stranger Calls is essentially an expanded remake of Fred Walton’s $12,000 short film The Sitter, which comprised the first 20 minutes of this film. Walton was inspired to turn the short into a feature-length film after the considerable success of John Carpenter’s Halloween. The film derives its story from the classic folk legend of “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs“.
Tony Beckley, who plays Curt Duncan, was terminally ill throughout production. Because of this, he did not at all fit the description of the killer, but Fred Walton refused to replace him. Beckley passed away soon after he finished filming his scenes. The 1993 sequel, When a Stranger Calls Back, was dedicated to his memory.
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“I admire Walton for not having relied solely on cheap scare tactics to carry the day, and for having the courage to attempt something on the order of a character-oriented thriller, even though he does allow the story to give way to some contrivances along the way.” Jack Sommersby, Monsters at Play
“After the initial opening sequence when the film shifts to the escaped lunatic seven years later, the overall tone of the film also changes drastically from a tense and unbearable horror film to a slow, seedy dramatic thriller almost akin to the depressing character study of Taxi Driver. Quite unexpected, this change doesn’t really work for the film as a whole and these two sections feel like separate films with different agendas.” Tyler Baptist, Sound on Sight
Posted by Will Holland