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When a Stranger Calls

By Tom Keogh

Released a year after John Carpenter's 1978 Halloween, this thriller by longtime actor-turned-director Fred Walton has held a strong following of its own. In an exemplary piece of suspense, the film begins with a babysitter (Carol Kane) fielding threatening phone calls while on the job. She soon finds that a pair of children in her charge have been murdered in their beds; she is nearly killed herself by the homicidal maniac before police arrive. As with Halloween, the action jumps some years ahead, when Kane's character is herself a wife and mother--and the monster escapes from a mental institution create his original carnage in the heroine's own home. Between these exciting bookends, the film loses its way and becomes dissatisfying and obscure. But Walton compensates by engineering a couple of great horror moments worth savoring.

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"Everyone claims this film has one of the greatest opening ten minutes of any film of the genre (horror). And nearly everyone also agrees that the rest of it doesn't live up to its opening."

--Maria Sharapova

 

FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated RNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Fred Walton

Stars: Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Rachel Roberts, Ron O'Neal

Released: October 12, 1979

Availability: DVD VHS


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