"Suspenseful?" Hollywood asked. "No way!" the viewers replied.
"Something creepy and original?" asked Hollywood. "No!" viewers replied. "Just give us a cheap remake of something from the '70s, with a story on a dark and stormy night, and be sure the killer calls his victims on the phone and threatens them in a sinister voice!"
Thus, Simon West's remake of the 1979 thriller When a Stranger Calls is No. 1 at the box office. With Lance Henricksen (Aliens) providing the creepy voice, and Camilla Belle (The Ballad of Jack and Rose) as the terrified babysitter, West's only notable revision to the original is the switch from land lines to cell phones.
Bob Smithouser (Plugged In) doesn't find it very scary at all. But he does say, "I'm glad … West didn't resort to the disturbing tactic many of his peers have found profitable of late: The low-budget marriage of R-rated sex and torture characterizing hits such as Saw II and Hostel. Rather, this movie is a decidedly PG-13 thriller. And even though it's a remake of a 1979 horror 'classic' involving murdered children, it had the decency to change that part of the story. Dialed back from the original, When a Stranger Calls isn't exploitative or diseased. It's just paltry, manipulative and cliché -ridden."
Having survived another lousy horror flick, mainstream critics are hanging up the phone.
It's always risky to update a classic work of literature for the screen, especially when you transplant the story's time and location. Director Mike Barker and screenwriter Howard Himelstein have done just that—moving Oscar Wilde's comedy Lady ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more