Fred Walton wrote and directed When a Stranger Calls Back, with Carol Kane, Jill Schoelen, Charles Durning, and Gene Lythgow starring.
Julia is baby-sitting when a strange man comes to the door, claiming to be having car trouble. Julia gets an odd feeling from him and reluctantly helps him, but refuses to open the door. However, throughout the night, as he returns several times, she realizes she’s not alone. She barely escapes with her life. Five years later, someone begins to break into her college apartment and move things around. At a loss she goes to the police and she’s able to get help from someone who’s been in a similar situation: Jill Johnson.
When a Stranger Calls Back was released in 1972. It was a hit and had several iconic moments and lines including “Have you checked the children?” and “The calls are coming from inside the house.” Eventually a sequel was planned and wound up being set up at Showtime. This is a rare horror sequel that stands equal to the original. The fact that two actors from the original film as well as the writer and director were involved with the sequel gave it a leg up. The opening sequence in Calls Back is just as tense and terrifying as the original. The story as a whole is, perhaps, a little better since it keeps its focus on a smaller cast and stays focused on the horror aspect. The ending is very creepy and suspenseful and wraps up the movie perfectly.
The casting is flawless. Everyone plays their role perfectly. Jill is very believable as a terrified student who doesn’t know what to do to stop the intruder. Carol slips into Jill Johnson like its a second skin. Seeing Julia go through a similar situation to what she endured several years ago, brings back old feelings as well as a determination to help her at any cost. Charles is perfect as John, who’s determined and fatherly. His empathy for what Julia is going through seems very real. Lythgow as the stranger is creepy and disturbing in a very realistic way. Every moment in this film feels as if it could actually happen, which heightens the horror these people are going through.
When a Stranger Calls Back (1993) gets 8/10. It’s a very creepy, tense movie that will have the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. As a bonus the Blu-Ray has the original short The Sitter, which was then turned into When a Stranger Calls (1972), among its bonus features.