When a Stranger Calls is a minimum effort horror movie. It does just enough to scare easily unnerved thirteen-year-old girls, and not much else. Luckily for Sony Screen Gems (but perhaps not so lucky for those of us who wish they'd stop making this sort of movie), there's plenty of underage would-be babysitters willing to pile in theaters and pay for overpriced tickets.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider helmer Simon West steps into the PG-13 horror genre directors chair to deliver one of its weakest entries yet. It's the story of a teenage babysitter named Jill (Camilla Bell) tasked with hanging out at a lavish house in an isolated location and watching kids until their parents get back. She's not there long before she's frightened by a cat, and the creepy music starts there and never stops. But there's nothing to justify all the scary background sounds, as Jill wanders aimlessly through her employers' well appointed house doing nothing.
Eventually, the phone rings and on the other end is a lot of heavy breathing. Jill hangs up, but it keeps ringing and so she keeps answering. Who is this creep on the other end of the phone? Is it her boyfriend? Her spazzo, party-whore girlfriend? Hold on, she's got to take a break to get scared by an icemaker.
If you've seen any of the trailers, then it's not a spoiler to tell you that the strange caller is actually in her house. But the movie takes its time getting there, and to make up for it tries to find scares in the completely mundane existence of lavishly wealthy rural living. This type of in-house scaring has been done better, even recently, in movies like The Glass House and last year's Hostage. When a Stranger Calls brings nothing new to the table, and screws up a lot of the good stuff that's already been done before.
Perhaps it seems old hat because this is a remake of a 1979 pseudo-thriller of the same name. The difference? That movie was at least rated R, allowing the possibility, however slim, of actually being scared by something. It also doesn't help that the premise of the 1979 film, is now a pop-culture cliché. The creepy prank caller secretly hiding inside the babysitter's house has been done, and done to death. If When a Stranger Calls didn't have anything new to heap on the premise, then what's the point of remaking it? The only conclusion to reach here is that Sony knows brain dead, shrieking, underage girls have disposable income and they want it. They'll get it, but not without boring everyone else.