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Traumafessions :: Reader Erczilla on When a Stranger Calls

September 18th, 2008 by aunt john · 13 Comments

The year was 1980 and my grandparents had just got cable television. As a seven year old, I was amazed at the bounty of forbidden entertainment that was now available to me. I remember being astounded and confused by a sleazy aerobic program on Showtime and all the uncensored music videos that they showed in between the movies. My older sister and my older cousin told me that a scary movie called WHEN A STRANGER CALLS was coming on Showtime and we made plans to sneak out of our bedrooms and watch it.

We all sat in the living room with the lights turned off and were scared out of our minds by the first ten minutes of the movie. The tension filled the air as we huddled together and hoped that no one would be calling from another room in the house. Just as the movie was getting scarier and scarier, my sister heard a thumping and scratching sound coming from the coat closet. My cousin screamed at the top of her lungs as the scratching noise got louder. My grandmother came running into the living room and began cussing at us and wondered why we were up so late watching television. She opened the closet door and out sprang her cat. I remember feeling bad that we got caught, yet relieved that there wasn’t a murderer waiting in the closet!

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13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 AbsintheNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 7:55 am

    That’s great – reminds me of the time I moved into my old house.  It needed a ton of work and I often went there at night alone to do some painting and cleaning before we moved in.  I remember the toilet used to flush by itself and I kept hearing this scratching/screeching sound.  I was pretty much convinced that the damn place was haunted – it didn’t help that it had sat abandoned for a few years and the previous owner had died in it.  Then I finally found out that the toilet was just broke and my creepy noises were coming from a branch hitting a window.  It’s always amusing when those common place things scare the crap out of you.

  • 2 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 8:49 am

    This movie had a GREAT beginning – a terrible middle- and a GREAT end. I for years thought someone should re-make it. Somebody DID – but I have heard nothing but bad things about the re-make and so I have never watched it. Pity too, cuz there is A LOT of potential with this story.

    The house I grew up in hand a beautiful tree right next to it. That beautiful trees branch used to scrape across the window and make the most terrifying noise. When NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET came out I recognized the noise of Freddy scraping his razor fingers- that is the same sound the tree made! Even as a teenager I would BEG my mother to cut the damn branches and the lazy woman never WOULD!

  • 3 Jeff AllardNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 9:06 am

    The ads for this movie absolutely terrified me! I was never so afraid to be alone after school than I was after this movie came out. When I finally saw the movie itself years later on TV, on the whole it was kind of anti-climatic but that opening scene was worth the wait.

  • 4 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Mama, see the sequel. It’s more like a remake in some ways. It’s like the director Fred Waltom (April Fool’s Day) went back and tried to fix the flaws from the original and I personally think the beginning of When a Stranger Calls Back is even scarier.

    I think I saw When a Stranger Calls on the ABC Movie of the Week or something. And I agree, those first few minutes are terrifying. I remember I was sweating and could feel hairs standing on the back of my neck. I was happy to make it out ALIVE!

  • 5 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Ahhhh yes, the sequel. It starred Jill Schoelen (POPCORN, CUTTING CLASS,THE STEPFATHER). I only saw that on TV once…and the only part I vividly remember was SPOILERS when the guy was painted to blend in with the wall

    Now THAT was freaky!

  • 6 VicarOfVHSNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Agree with this having a great opening, then falling off sharply. IIRC the opening 20 mins or so are just the famous Urban Myth come to life, very well done and terrifying. The problem is, after that you still have an hour or so to fill for a feature length flick. If it were just a short film with that opening freakout, though–what nightmare fuel!

  • 7 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 19, 2008 at 8:24 am

    The problem with the middle is that they spend too much time showing The Bad Guy just amblin’ around doin’ nothin’! (No fooling – Try not to fast foward in scenes where he’s walkin the city streets just trying to get from Point A to Point B. There are scenes that are minutes long of him just WALKING AROUND!) They show him going to a pub and getting hostile because he ain’t taking his meds but really: the only person he seems to wanna prey on is poor Carol Kane! They should have thrown some MANIAC-like stuff in the middle. Have homeboy attack some prostitutes! Chase some women through subway stations! Scalp a few ladies! ANYTHING! The guy just mumbles and scuffles around a lot! It’s like they mixed two movies together…cuz the front and back are Grade A quality Horror and the middle is just like my head: Not a whole lot goin’ on in there!

  • 8 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Sep 19, 2008 at 11:25 am

    I have seen this movie more than once and besides the first scene, which did scare the crap out of me, I can not recall one bit! I do remember liking the sequel that Amanda mentioned,and the part that mamamia mentioned, the guy blending in with brick walls was really cool. Plus Jill Schoelen!!! Has anyone ever seen CURSE 2: THE BITE??? when the guy’s arm is turning into a snake? Jill Schoelen deserves much more notoriety as a scream queen, she was also in that PHANTOM OF THE OPERA remake with Robert Englund! I love her raspy voice!

  • 9 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 19, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I love her too. I think I have a “I’m Not Gay But If I WAS…” crush on her. Maybe it’s the voice. (Not Horror, but she was also very cute in THAT WAS THEN THIS IS NOW and THERE GOES MY BABY).

    You should watch WHEN A STRANGER CALLS again (fast foward a lot!) to re-visit the ending. The ending is just as creepy as the beginning. Everytime I’m alone in the house I think about it (and thats all I can say without spoiling).

    Is WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK on DVD yet, I wonder aloud?

  • 10 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Sep 19, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I believe When a Stranger Calls Back is on DVD in some kind of bare bones edition. I have the vhs copy of it. I also think it was made for Showtime or something, but my memory can falter.

    I am a HUGE Jill Schoelen fan. Anyone here seen Rich Girl? Good lord! It’s SO 90s and amazing and features Kelly Taylor’s mom from 90210 as a bartender and has characters named Rocco and stars Cherrie Currie. So good. I also have a “If I was gay” crush on her. Also, Brad Pitt once said she was the only woman who ever broke his heart. That’s girl’s got it!

    When a Stranger Calls Back, IMO, is Jill’s best performance, but worst hair cut! What were they THINKING? It’s one of my favorite horror films, especially in the category of horror in the 90s and beyond. Worth revisiting.

  • 11 micksterNo Gravatar // Sep 19, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Unkle, I haven’t seen all of Curse 2: The Bite, but I have seen the scene you described. There was a short-lived show on Comedy Central sometime in the 90’s called Drive In Reviews. I saw clips from that movie there. I really enjoyed that show and wished it would have lasted longer. Prof.V.W. and I watched When a Stranger Calls a couple of weeks ago. We agree that the beginning and end of the movie is very suspenseful and scary, but the middle is weak. The scariest part of the middle is seeing the crazy dude naked. We started our Halloween scary movie fest in early September.

  • 12 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Sep 19, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    There is a dvd that has both THE CURSE and THE CURSE 2: THE BITE on it, what a deal!!! THE BITE has some really great special effects and it stars none other than Jamie Farr!!!!!!!!!!!Highly recommended!

  • 13 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 20, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I somehow missed both CURSE and CURSE 2 so maybe that sets a Must See for me.

    I checked and was a little disappointed to see that WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and a WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK aren’t on a Two Disc Set! (How sweet would that be????) I don’t really feel like spending $12 for a copy of ONE when I can get BOTH for $12! (I’m CHEAP….times are TOUGH!)

    I DID see RICH GIRL! Wow…I totally forgot about that movie! I think I went on a Whatever Happend To Cherie Currie kick awhile back and was scrounging for anything I could get my hands on, including an autographed copy of her book NEON ANGEL! (That reminds me: I STILL have to rent PARASITE, a Horror Sci-Fi doozy she made with Demi Moore that allegedly sucks azz!)

    It’s funny, I love Jill and Cherie enough to sit through all their crap and say it tastes like pudding! They made some good movies but alas -they made some bad ones too!  But like Homer Simpson says : We’re none of us perfect.

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