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May 13, 2006 | Comments ()


Christ! Just Hang up the Fucking Phone.

When a Stranger Calls / Dustin Rowles

Film Reviews | May 13, 2006 | Comments ()


“The Caller is in the House!”

That’s the big twist to this weekend’s fuck-the-Super-Bowl-we’re-gonna- watch-a-chick-talk-on-the-phone-and-(hopefully)-show-her-cleavage entry. And, if you’ve seen even one of the adverts during “The O.C.,” you’re already privy to that twist, so there’s not much point in attending When a Stranger Calls. Hell, even if you didn’t know the twist, there’s not much point in attending, unless you think you need to make up for the dearth of misogyny inflicted upon you during Sunday’s Super Bowl commercials, and I, for one, actually prefer to see the Budweiser breasts communicating with the Miller Light talking animals than go through yet another tired teenager-in-distress plotline. And, really, if Simon West (Blow a Hole in the Back of Your Head Con Air) had enough business savvy in his wee brain, he’d at least have given the teenaged demographic some cleavage to look at along with his 1950s view of gender, instead of featuring the bland, flat-chested Elisha Cuthbert-wannabe, Camilla Belle, in the starring role. Seriously, Simon, if you’re going to make an anti-feminist movie, at least do it with some goddamn gusto!

“The Fuckwit is in the Theater!”

And that’s how you’re gonna feel if you actually attend this film, because beyond the shitty script, the painful dialogue, the lack of imagination, and the inept directing, When a Stranger Calls is mostly just mind-splittingly, kick-yourself-in-the-testicles boring. The narrative follows Jill Johnson (Bella), who has been grounded for a month for overusing her cell phone minutes; she has also been compelled by her parents to babysit for the Mandrakis family, who happen to live way out in the boonies of Long Island (i.e., Connecticut), though no explanation is given for why the live-in maid, Rosa, can’t care for the children instead (though, given the dim-witted, anachronistic worldview of the script, it’s probably because she’s Hispanic and, thus, might eat the children).

Like the 1979 original, starring Carol “I’m not a witch. I’m your wife.” Kane, the 2006 version of When a Stranger Calls follows the babysitter from the time of the first heavy-breathing prank call to the ultimate revelation that, “The Caller is in the House.” In the original (which is, unbelievably, duller than its remake), the movie-time that elapses between the first prank call and that revelation is about 15 minutes, at which point the original goes on to explore the aftermath, seven years later. Unfortunately, in the remake, not only do you know what the twist is (“The Caller is in the House”), you actually have to wait a full hour before it is revealed, which is a bit like knowing that you’re going sneeze, but having to wait a full 60 minutes to experience that relief.

Indeed, between the first prank call and “The Caller is in the House,” the storyline consists entirely of one sham scare after another. In order of appearance, the false jumps consists of: 1) the remote-controlled fireplace; 2) the overloud television; 3) the overloud CD player; 4) the black cat coming from around the corner; 5) a bird; 6) the ice maker; 7) the motion lights; 8) the best-friend pop-in; 9) the dropped keys; 10) the loud knock on the door; 11) the coat and hat hanging on a door; and, finally, 12) the theater usher pointing his flashlight at me so I’d remove my feet from the seat in front of me, which was actually the only bona fide scare I had during the entire 86-minute ordeal.

Finally, after “The Caller is in the House,” is revealed, Stranger eventually unwinds devolves just as you’d expect: The perpetrator and babysitter engage in a full-on run-and-seek, replete with Janet Leigh screams and the requisite shot of the vulnerable teenage girl crawling away on all fours, only now the goddamn kids are awake and bawling. Honestly, if I’d wanted to hear crying kids, I would’ve bought a ticket to see Nanny McPhee or, better yet, walked out into the mall and kicked one. Instead, When a Stranger Calls sees fit to inject an otherwise terrible movie with an assault on your auditory canal, intermingling screaming kids, a shrieking babysitter, slamming doors, a grunting serial killer, and an obnoxiously loud (and unnecessary) score, which is enough to drive just about anyone to drink. My advice: Skip the movie and head straight for the drink. You may have a miserable time, but at least you’ll be drunk.

Cheers.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.


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