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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Movie Reviews

    ‘Stranger’ tries familiar terror trope

    Baby-sitting is a simple job: put the kids to bed early, watch TV on the parents’ flat screen and steal ice cream from the fridge. Except in “”When a Stranger Calls,”” where baby-sitting is anything but easy.

    In “”When a Stranger Calls,”” Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle) is forced to pay penance for an excessive phone bill by having her phone taken away, not being able to go out and being forced to baby-sit at a remote lakeside house for her parents’ friends.

    When a Stranger Calls
    100 mins (Screen Gems)

    The house is gorgeous and breathtaking. The two kids are sick and already in bed by the time she gets there, so the job is pretty much as effortless as it gets. At first she has no fears. She gets startled by the cat when he appears out of nowhere. The housekeeper shocks her by coming downstairs to feed the birds. A friend of her ex-boyfriend prank calls her to ask her what she’s wearing. Then the scares turn real. Jill gets non-stop calls from a man who breathes heavily into the receiver. Her fear gets heightened when he asks her if she’s checked the children and as soon as she does, he asks her how they were. He can see her and Jill now knows that despite the elaborate and expensive alarm system, she’s no longer safe inside the house.

    Jill calls the police in a desperate attempt to get help and they give her two tasks: wait it out for 20 minutes until they can get a car out to the desolate lake house and try to keep the mystery stranger on the phone for one minute so they can track the location of his call.

    If you’ve seen the commercial for the movie on TV, the plot from here is slightly spoiled because it plays the scene where the police tell her that the call is coming from inside of the house and that she needs to get out as fast as possible. However, when Jill gets the call, she’s on the top floor of the house in the live-in housekeeper’s room. To get out alive, she has to make it all the way down and get the kids out too, which is an almost impossible job with a mad killer blocking the way.

    While most scary movies use darkness for the scares, director Simon West takes a different approach: light. The house has a lighting system where instead of having to flip a switch, the lights are turned on by motion detectors. The freakiest parts come when the lights are turned on because something bad is right around the corner. By doing this, West makes the audience uneasy, even in situations where viewers should feel calm.

    West also keeps the foreboding and creepy music running continuously in the background, and always in the back of every scene, it’s hard to feel safe even during normal events, like when the baby sitter goes to raid the fridge for food. We’re so used to jumping out of our seats over nothing that when the climax finally does come up, it feels like just another one of the frightening hoaxes.

    However, the spine-chilling thrills will freak you out enough to rule out baby-sitting and consider a new option the next time you think about what you’ll do to make a few extra bucks.

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