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Film / When a Stranger Calls

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Poster for the 1979 original.

"Have you checked the children?"

When a Stranger Calls is a horror movie that uses The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House as a plot. It plays with the Urban Legend of "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs".

There are two versions: the 1979 original, starring Carol Kane (followed by a 1993 made-for-television sequel, When A Stranger Calls Back), and a 2006 remake, with Camilla Belle. The 2006 remake uses handheld phones (both home and cell phones) instead of the technical impossibility of a rotary-dial phone calling itself, and is no less effective for it. Also worth mentioning is that the remake is more of an extended re-imagining of the original's opening sequence, rather than a straight remake.

Both movies follow Jill Johnson, who, after being grounded by her parents, is working as a babysitter for the children of a wealthy doctor and his wife. Not long into her job, however, she is plagued by persistent, creepy phone calls from someone who is watching her every move...


Tropes present in both films:

  • Big Fancy House: The home where Jill is babysitting
  • Break the Cutie: Jill. Indeed, the ending of the remake implies that she's going to be psychologically damaged for a long time.
  • The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House: Said almost word-for-word (though this movie isn't the Trope Namer).
  • Evil Phone: As the Stranger keeps calling.
  • For the Evulz: There's really no purpose to the Stranger's phone calls, except to freak out Jill. And the audience. In fact, his MO can basically be described as: "stalk and harass these women for hours, drive them into a paranoid terror, then murder them (and anyone else who gets in the way)".
  • Harassing Phone Call: Many, from the Stranger.
  • Infant Immortality: The kids survive in the remake, but it is entirely possible that the Stranger intended to kill them after bumping off Jill. This is averted in the original, however. A deleted scene from the remake subverts this - it is implied that the murder at the beginning of the movie was not just limited to the babysitter. In addition it is never made clear what became of the kids in the sequel to the original.
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  • Jump Scare: Many and varied. The first half of the remake has several fake scares, while the second half contains several very real ones.

Tropes present in the 1979 original and 1993 sequel:

  • Evil Brit: The Stranger, aka Curt Duncan.
  • Time Skip: After the opening sequence, the film skips forward seven years, following Curt's continuing psychopathic exploits after his escape from a psychiatric institution.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Stranger has no problem doing it.

Tropes present in the 2006 remake:

"Have you checked the children?"

Example of: