Saturday, July 31, 2010

Movie Review: When a Stranger Calls

Before I begin the review, I would like to express my thought on one thing. Consider for a moment, what Lord of the Rings did for Fantasy. What the Matrix did for action flicks. What Avatar did for 3-D movies. These movies arguably revolutionized the genre. While they didn't always work, it was clear that some thought and effort had been made into breaking the normal cliches. And yeah, you could argue that these movies have a lot of money, but even movies like Saw had no money, two Austrian dudes without a passport and three month's worth of filming. And they created a cult following that spanned seven movies!

And trust me, When a Stranger Calls knows when to push the boundaries of traditional storytelling. It's edgy, it's gory, it's scary, it's got characters you will literally cheer for-nah, just kidding. It's another run-of-the-mill horror flick that's both bland and a remake of something better. 

In this film, a young girl named Jill Johnson is being 'grounded' for using too many cell phone minutes on her phone and has to babysit a doctor's two kids in order to learn responsibility. This family, by the way, owns a huge mansion in the middle of nowhere with no one who can easily help her. Shortly afterwards, Jill starts to receive mysterious phone calls from a man terrorizing her. 

Of course we have the usual cliches-dropping car keys, spooky hallways, thinking everything is all right and-oh-my-god-he's-right-behind-you, but the gore content on this movie is absolutely zero. I will admit there is a decent amount of atmosphere, but this movie loves to throw red herrings at the audience. In fact you could easily get rid of forty-five minutes for the fake terror scenes alone. And without any gore, there's really no payoff in waiting anyway.

The characters are bland and fairly uninteresting. There's a small b-plot where Jill's boyfriend Bobby kissed another girl, but this ultimately leads nowhere as Bobby is only in two scenes and disappears for the rest of the film. Jill is a responsible girl..and that's about all we learn about her. She's also a babysitter, a fact you might forget considering that she only checks on the kids a grand total of two times in the film. Even after she realizes that there is a guy stalking her and can see her in the house, they only show up when the plot requires them to. And speaking of the kids, I think the parents gave them a bunch of Nightquil before they left. They sleep through the alarm going off two times, not to mention the phone ringing a billion times. Oh, and two murders as well.

Which leaves us with the villain. Who is he? I honestly expected there to be some dark twist at the end where it was one of the parents, or maybe the mysterious son who lives in the guest house that we never see. Or maybe Rosa the Spanish Housekeeper. Who knows? Either way it would have given us some badly-needed character development. But no, it's just a stranger with no motivation who likes killing young girls. Who also has a detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the house, and the alarm codes.

Did I mention this movie has a few plot holes?

FINAL GRADE: 1 1/2 stars out of 5. Disappointing, uninspiring, and the one star only goes to the people who gave an effort in this film-the set designers.

 I wonder how this movie would have went if Jill had just turned the damn cell phone off!

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