When a Stranger Calls

dir. Simon West

I'm sure, for most of us, the title When a Stranger Calls rings some childhood bells. Nubile babysitter alone in secluded house. Stranger calls; is creepy. Police trace calls to upstairs bedroom. Yikes! And... scene. It's one of our most popular and plausible urban legends (pimple filled with spider babies? Come on)—but how could anyone possibly turn these 17 words into a full-length movie? The answer is, no one can. And I will never get that hour and a half back.

Listen. Nobody likes this scenario less than me. No monsters, no ghosts, just a horrible fucking psycho hiding all up in your house? Fuck babysitting; I'm moving back in with my parents. But this movie is not about anything. The filmmakers haven't fleshed out the original story so much as stretched it to transparency. Yes, there is a teenage babysitter, Jill (Camilla Belle), and she is indeed in a house (an angular, labyrinthine lakeside palace), and there does seem to be a killer somewhere nearby. But rather than filling the film's grueling running time with actual plot (backstory, motivation, dialogue, action), director Simon West and screenwriter Jake Wade Wall (working from a 1979 screenplay) seem to be determined to murder us all with boredom—opting instead to focus on the minutiae of babysitting, set to the least chilling music ever.

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Jill sits listlessly on the couch (terror!). She goes in the other room (be afraid!). She rummages for snacks (nooo!). After at least an hour and about 500 false starts (What's that noise? The cat. The maid. The ice machine. The wind. The ex-best-friend Tiffany), Jill comes face to face with the bumblingest murderer of all time and defeats him easily.

Stay tuned for the sequel: When a Stranger Writer Falls (Asleep at This Boring-Ass Movie). Get it? Ha ha hoo. But seriously, watching me take a nap would be better entertainment than this. And I only charge $5.75.