"That's not my ringtone..."The phone is ringing. Dear God, THE PHONE IS RINGING! The camera slowly closes in on the phone. The noise is deafening. Cut to the protagonist, who has terror in her eyes. She answers the phone. "Hello?!" Roughly half the time, the call is not from who she thought it would be (instead being, say, someone who wants to switch her long distance or some equivalent of a Cat Scare). This guarantees the second call, immediately afterward. She picks up the phone and says, "I'M HAPPY WITH MY LONG DISTANCE, DAMMIT". Then she hears the voice of evil on the other end of the line. If upon answering the phone, she hears dead air, she is required to say, "It's dead," and someone else is then required to say, "Could you please not put it that way?" One specific variant of this trope that now lives in Urban Legend territory is The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House. The phone might also be a Supernatural Phone. Compare and contrast Harassing Phone Call and Mistaken for Prank Call.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- At the end of one episode of Noein, the old house phone starts ringing even though it's unplugged. After a lot of weird noises, it turns out the protagonist is calling herself from an alternate future timeline with some advice. Not quite evil, but still creepy as hell, especially because her future self sounds so sad...
- Hanako and the Terror of Allegory has a few chapters that revolve around a Creepy Doll named Mary who will call you every five minutes to tell you about how she's hunting you down and preparing to kill you.
Films — Animated
- In Monster House DJ gets a phone call from the house across the street the night after he saw its sole inhabitant suffer an apparently-fatal heart attack. All he hears on the line is spooky creaking and groaning noises.
Films — Live-Action
- The hotel room phone in 1408. Not only did it talk in a nightmarishly calm and pleasing woman's voice, it also melted for some reason.
"Five. This is five. Ignore the sirens. Even if you leave this room, you can never leave this room. Eight. This is eight. We have killed your friends. Every friend is now dead. Six. This is six."
- Black Christmas (1974) practically started this trope, and was the first film to use the urban legend-based trope of the killer being in the house with his victims, which was pretty cutting edge back then.
- Played with a little bit of actual creepiness in the intentionally cheesy Doom House. Determined to defuse the creepiness by any means necessary, Reginald picks up the phone with a goofy hand gesture, then discovers that the aforementioned voice of evil sounds utterly ridiculous. The gratuitous presence of his cat doesn't hurt, either.
- The Fifth Element reveals that Corrupt Corporate Executive Zorg is allied with the Eldritch Abomination who calls him over the phone using the moniker "Mister Shadow". Zorg is terrified when those calls come. Not the least because Mister Shadow can make people bleed out of their foreheads over the phone.
- Also the phones made by Zorg's company appear to have semtex installed, as standard, ready to be detonated whenever Zorg is disappointed.
- Inverted in The Matrix. Neo receives a FedEx package. There's a phone inside, and it starts freaking ringing the moment he pulls it out. Neo's eyes bug out and he answers it. Turns out it was Morpheus, exactly who Neo expected it to be.
- An unconventional example shows up in The Ruins. The phone itself isn't evil or used by a villain to menace somebody, but the sadistic Man-Eating Plant lures its prey by imitating a cellphone's ringtone.
- In Chakushin Ari and all its sequels and the remake, young people receive voicemail messages that detail their final moments, complete with Ironic Nursery Rhyme ringtone.
- In the film vaguely inspired by The Mothman Prophecies, Richard Gere gets phone calls from someone who is either Indrid Cold or the Mothman. Not quite evil, but thoroughly creepy, since his voice patterns were "outside of human vocal range".
- Also, the phone calls that may be from Klein's dead wife, although you never know due to him refusing to answer the phone and that even come through when the phone is unplugged.
- Nancy in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) tries to call her boyfriend, Glen Lantz, to warn him not to go to sleep. Then the phone rings. She picks it up. It's the sound of Freddy's claws being sharpened. She (understandably) freaks out, tears the phone out of the plug, and throws it across the room. Then, despite being unplugged, it starts ringing again. This time, it's Freddy again, telling her that "I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy," - and then he sticks his tongue out of the phone and wags it at her.
- Averted in Red Eye, where the phone call is the police saying that they're right on their way. Though the phone calls Rippner wants her to make for him are fairly sinister themselves.
- The Ring. ("Seven days!")
- It also pulls the "first call is fake" variant in both versions, as the first victim tells her tale of the tape, and then receives a call from her mother just to unnerve the audience. Unfortunately, it also takes the edge off the horror by having one of the real calls intercepted... by Rachel's voicemail. Which she then deletes.
- And then spoofed to hell in Scary Movie 3. Aside from the Evil Phone getting dragged into actual conversations, it tries to contact the female protagonist's son and gets her instead, gets hung up on, calls back and poses as a solicitor, and then finally asks her to take a message for him.
- The killers from the Scream series were quite fond of messing with their victims over the phone.
- The Silence of the Lambs. ("Well, Clarice, have the little lambs stopped screaming?") The book had Lecter send Clarice a letter, instead.
- When a Stranger Calls plays with the urban legend of The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs.
- The Gate. The protaganists are not sure what the hell (literally) is up with the huge hole in the backyard. Evidence comes when the phone rings. It seems to be Mom, checking up on the boys, but then 'Mom' screams 'You've been BAAAD!' and the phone melts. Nightmare fuel indeed.
- In the original Halloween (1978), Michael strangles Lydia to death with a phone cord just as she calls Laurie. Michael then picks up the phone to listen to Laurie's frantic cries, before calmly hanging up.
- Ghost in the Machine: The digitized killer harasses the heroine over the phone, at first by making her a target of call advertisements, until he directly talks to her.
- Stephen King's original idea for the phone in "1408" was actually more disturbing than that used on film — the voice, as described in the original short story, doesn't so much resemble a human being as an electric razor that has learned to talk. His performance of it in the audiobook is memorable, to say the least.
Phone: This is nine! Nine! This is nine! Nine! This is ten! Ten! We have killed your friends! Every friend is now dead! This is six! Six! ... Eighteen! This is now eighteen! Take cover when the siren sounds! This is four! Four! ... Five! This is five! Ignore the siren! Even if you leave this room, you can never leave this room! Eight! This is eight! ... Six, this is six This is goddamn fucking six!
- In The Regulators (also by Stephen King, or rather Richard Bachman) we have the Tak phone, which is not easily described but may well be the most subtly frightening example of the trope ever.
- Also also by Stephen King, there is "Sorry, Right Number", in which the phone isn't precisely evil, but creepy.
INT. THE PHONE It lies on the carpet, looking both bland and somehow ominous. CAMERA MOVES IN TO ECU- the holes in the receiver once more look like huge dark chasms. We HOLD, then FADE TO BLACK.
- ALSO also also by Stephen King is the novel Cell, in which cell phones initiate a Zombie Apocalypse.
- In Dean Koontz's Phantoms, the titular phantom likes doing this to the protagonists.
- In Spellbent, Jessie's cellphone briefly behaves this way while she's in close proximity to a Hell Gate.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark? had the "Phone Police" and their insane prisoner Billy Baxter.
- Doctor Who:
- This appears quite often in the Classic Series. For instance, the First Doctor was attacked with a sort of hypnotising beam sent via phone. One of the Master's very first attempts to kill the Doctor was carried out with an Auton-plastic phone cord that attempted to strangle Three.
- "Father's Day" had the Doctor receive creepy, cryptic speech... that turned out to be the first phone call ever. It was the first sign that they officially broke time.
- Throughout the two-parter "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", the Child demonstrates the ability to control things like radios, telephones and even typewriters. When he takes over the TARDIS' Police Box telephone (back before the Doctor patched an actual phone through it), the Doctor is perturbed and notes, "Ringing? What's that about, ringing? You're not even a real phone and you're ringing?!"
- In "The Impossible Planet", Rose gets a call from Satan himself on her mobile, which understandably freaks her out a bit.
- Tales from the Darkside featured an episode written by Stephen King in which a woman receives an unsettling phone call from a frantic woman, which turns out to be herself in the future, after her husband has suddenly died.
- Tales also had an episode where a woman is annoyed by a constantly ringing phone in the apartment next to hers. Later this escalates to what sounds like someone in the apartment trying to break through her bedroom wall. Finally she steels her nerves and goes over there...
- Spoofed in The Kids in the Hall. A guy refuses to answer the phone. Reasoning it must be a wrong number. But as the phone keeps on ringing, it causes increasing hysteria in his friends. They convince themselves that something sinister about the call. "Or it's a very wrong number. 42 rings? What kind of FREAK is sitting there by that phone?"
- The TV adaptation of Scream, much like the films, has the killer taunting victims through their phones, though here, it's more through text messages and videos.
- The Unbidden gives us the Fear-Powered Cell Phone, a phone that has Awakened and which draws charge from paranoia. It sends itself text messages that attempt to scare its current owner; however, it also sends itself texts that give very good advice, so that the owner comes to trust it.
- Subverted in Ghost Trick; Sissel can possess phones and use the phone lines for transportation, but cannot talk to people through them, even if they're holding the receiver or calling the phone he's possessing.
- The Silent Hill series has had several Evil Phones, and a few merely spooky ones.
- The Suffering and it's sequel. Sometimes nearby phones ring. Don't answer. Don't even pickup the non-ringing ones.
- On rare occasions, you need to pick them up anyway to advance the story, and on even rarer occasions, they're helpful. Granted, the help comes from Doctor Killjoy, and usually only in the "Good" morality; but those rare bits of necessity can unfortunately instill a similar response for every other phone...
- Eternal Darkness has this as one of the Sanity-based freak outs. "Remember me, Alex?"
- Phantasmagoria 2 when you call yourself or your murdered coworkers.
- In Sierra's Shivers 2, the villain would often call to gloat and give you unsettling messages whenever you moved to a different room or building. Extra creepiness came from the implication that he must have been watching you (or following you) very closely to know where to call each time.
- Deus Ex: Shortly after arriving in Paris, JC Denton enters an empty office with the phone ringing. Upon answering the phone, he has a short, cryptic conversation with Icarus. The use of the phone can be assumed to be pure Mind Screw on Icarus' part since he can (and does) message directly to JC in other points of the game.
- Max Payne: "Is this the Payne residence?"
- You can be one, briefly, in Geist, in order to scare a janitor so you can possess him.
- Answering a certain phone in FEAR: Extraction Point will result in an Alma scream that shakes the room.
- In Batman: Arkham City Victor Zsasz begins a series of serial killings in which he calls random payphones and kills whomever answers them. In Batman's case he makes him track down another payphone somewhere else or else he kills innocents.
- In Metro: Last Light, while passing through the anomalous River of Fate with Khan, a decades-old utility phone with no visible power source rings. If Artyom picks it up, he can hear the voice of his dead mother calling for him. Subverted in that it's not a negative event, and it even gives the player a morality point.
- In Cry of Fear, your phone is mainly used as a flashlight in the game (which is always night). However, it's also used to lure Simon into the dark, abomination filled apartments through a series of text messages.
- Watch_Dogs: "Knock-Knock." "Who's there?" "A smartphone hacking the local media art to play your betrayal over and over and over..."
Bedbug: *Panicked* WHAT YOU WANT?! STOP IT!!! WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME?!
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game has a Cursed Artifact called "Asmodeus' Hotline," a glowing red telephone whose busy signal is accompanied by screams and evil laughter.
- A variant in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, when Phoenix gets angry at (by then revealed to be the big villain) Matt for phoning him.
(Phoenix's phone rings)
Phoenix: (Auugh! It's that Engarde again!) (Answers) Would you stop calling me already?!
Gumshoe: ...You're kinda mean, pal...
Phoenix: GAH! Detective Gumshoe! I'm really, really sorry!
- At the end of the first arc of Umineko: When They Cry, Natsuhi, Battler, George, and Jessica are holed up in Kinzo's study. The phone lines have been cut, as they discovered some time before when attempting to contact the police. While they're all sitting there in tense silence, all of a sudden, the phone rings. One of them goes over and picks it up... and all they hear is Maria singing creepily in the distance.
- Also near the end of the fourth arc, after Jessica, George, and Maria are sent off, the phone rings, and greets Battler with..."Congratulations."
- In the fifth arc, Natsuhi receives calls from 'the man from nineteen years ago', who blackmails her into incriminating behaviors. He continues to call even after the mainland lines are down. There are no other clues regarding him in any other arc, so it can't be certain that he is who he claims, or that he wasn't just Natsuhi's lie or delusion.
- In Silent Hill: Promise expect to be unhappy whenever the protagonist's cellphone rings.
- The Billy Goat Caller, a short film by Dom Fera of The Lazer Collection fame, features a rather creepy prank caller.
- The Board James review of Dream Phone features James receiving creepy, threatening calls through the game's toy phone even after he removes the batteries. Then people start dying. Turns out to be a literal Evil Phone as the toy phone itself was making the calls and comitting the murders.
- In the Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse episode "A Spooky Sleepover", a scary story Nikki tells during Barbie's Slumber Party gets interrupted by Raquelle's phone ringing. When Raquelle answers it, she learns that her hair appointment was cancelled!
- The SCP Foundation has a chilling example in the form of SCP-145, otherwise known as the "Man-Absorbing Phone". It constantly rings despite not being plugged to anything. Picking the phone up results in conversation with a woman pleading for help as she details gruesome acts of torture performed on unknown victims - and if you just so happen to be alone when you pick up the phone, you're going to be joining the victims yourself.
- Spoofed in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy. In "Sorry, Wrong Ed", Eddy gets a phone that Rolf desperately wants to get rid of. As soon as Eddy gets the phone, it starts ringing... without being plugged in, and every time he (or anyone else!) picks up the receiver, something bad happens to him.
- In an episode of Tales From The Cryptkeeper a crank caller, in a form of karmic comeuppance, ends up crank-calling a seemingly kindly old lady who turns his phone into one. No matter what he does to his phone she'll just keep calling him over and over insisting "but you called me", and if he goes elsewhere any phone he comes within range of will ring for him with her on the other end. Needless to say, things get a hell of a lot worse when he goes to her home to apologise.
- Personified: the revolution of London's appliances and electrical devices in the Danger Mouse episode "Mechanised Mayhem" is staged by the phone on DM's living room table top.