Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Movie Review: When A Stranger Calls (2006)

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Year Produced: 2006
Director: Simon West
Producers: John Davis, Wyck Godfrey, Ken Lemberger
Writer: Jake Wade Wall
Studio: Davis Entertainment
Distributor: Screen Gems

Camila Belle - Jill Johnson
Katie Cassidy - Tiffany Madison
Tessa Thompson - Scarlet
Brian Geraghty - Bobby
Clark Gregg - Ben Johnson
Derek De Lint - Dr. Mandrakis
Kate Jennings Grant - Kelly Mandrakis
Thomas Flanagan - The Stranger
David Denman - Officer Burroughs
Steve Eastin - Detective Hines
John Bobek - Officer Lewis
Arthur Young - Will Mandrakis
Madeline Carroll - Alison Mandrakis

A babysitter and the kids she is apparently taking care of were found brutally murdered in the house in town. The police arrived at the scene, and the detective in charge was found to be showing a grave expression when he saw the bodies; which indicates that they were found in a very gruesome way.

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The scene shifts to a town in Florida, where teenager Jill Johnson (Camila Belle) was seen running around in laps in the gym, practising for her track record while her boyfriend, Bobby (Brian Geraghty) watches from his basketball practice taking place below.
Jill was going through a tough time; with her running practices and dealing with her fight and break up with Bobby, whom she caught kissing with her best friend, Tiffany (Katie Cassidy).
To add to her problems, she had also overused the credit limit on her cell phone, landing her in a phone bill debt and angering her father, Ben Johnson (Clark Gregg). To pay for her bill, her father found her a babysitting job with an acquaintance, Dr Mandrakis (Derek De Lint) who lived out of town.

Jill reluctantly accepted the job, although she really did not have a choice and that meant that she will have to miss out on the high school's bonfire night, much to the disappointment of her friend, Scarlet (Tessa Thompson). However, as Jill was grounded due to her phone bill, her dad drove to the outskirts to a pristine and luxurious mansion by the lakeside which was the residence of the Mandrakis and the place where she will be babysitting for the night.
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Jill was in awe of the beautiful mansion and assured her father that she will be alright on her own.
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She met Dr Mandrakis and his wife, Kelly (Kate Jennings Grant) who showed her around the house and left her with the emergency contact numbers for the night before they leave for their romantic night out.
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The kids were already sleeping upstairs, and Jill was informed of the existence of a maid, Rosa, who stays on the third floor and also of their wandering college son, who occasionally comes home unannounced and stays in a house outside of the mansion.
Before leaving, Dr Mandrakis wrote down the code for their house alarm and activated the alarm system.

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Feeling initially bored, Jill then decided to do a little exploring on her own around the house and was thrilled with the spectacular design of the house, and even tried on some of Mrs Mandrakis jewelry in her room. However, startled by noises, she rushes out of the room and was checking out for intruders, with a poker in her hand, and was relieved when she found Rosa feeding the birds and fish in the zen-like aviary in the middle of the house.
Returning to her spot on the couch, she starts getting phone calls where there was silence on the other end.
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Dismissing them as prank calls, Jill was annoyed when the calls kept coming in.
When she got a call from her boyfriend Bobby who was at the bonfire, she asked whether it was him but the line was unclear and got disconnected.
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The quiet surroundings and also the huge space in the house started to creep Jill out, and she was startled when her best friend, Tiffany turned up at the house.
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Not wanting to ruin her job, Jill made Tiffany left and surprised when she was informed that the garage door was open which enabled Tiffany to get into the house, Jill then closed all the doors and made sure they were locked. Tiffany, on the other hand, was spooked as well as she tried to get out of the house in what appears to be a storm coming when she was held back by a log. As Tiffany got out of her car, she was seen to be attacked.

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Elsewhere, the phone calls were becoming more and more frequent, and though the caller was silent in the initial phone calls, he is already starting to talk, asking Jill to check on the children. Jill starts to worry about the phone calls, and called the police.
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However, Jill then thought it was okay but started to be alarmed once again when the caller informed Jill that she is being watched and in a panic, she grabs the phone and called the police again.
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The police then told her to keep the caller on the phone at least for a minute for more so that they would be able to trace the call.

Jill waits for the caller to call her again, and at the same time, spotted a shadow in the guest house located outside the mansion. She rushes to the guest house, and was terrified when she received a phone call inside the guest house. Although she managed to keep him on the line for a minute, it was no use as he had called the guest house's line whereas the police had tapped into the main mansion's phone line. Spotting a light being turned on inside the main mansion, Jill rushes back to the house and turned on the alarm and the phone started ringing again. Picking up the phone, it was the caller again and Jill tried to keep him on the line for more than a minute again; which she succeeded. She then received the next phone call from the police who informed her that the calls were coming from inside the house!
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Horrified, Jill tries to search for the caller within the house and was shocked to find Tiffany's dead body in the bathroom upstairs. It was then that she was attacked by someone which she managed to escape. She wakes and gets the kids out of their bedroom and rushes to the aviary to hide, and discovering Rosa's body inside the fish pond.
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The man manages to break into the aviary/greenhouse, but Jill succeeded in locking him inside the place.
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Letting the kids out of the house, Jill runs away from the man who had escaped from the greenhouse and when he tried to grab hold of her, Jill stabbed him with the poker she earlier had and runs away from him.
The police had arrived and grabbed Jill into their arms, while the man was caught.
Apparently, he was the same man who murdered the other babysitter in the other side of the town and may be a serial killer targetting babysitters.

Jill awoke in the hospital to her phone ringing, but she refused to pick it up; afraid that it was her assailant again. When she finally picks up the phone, she sees a man behind her trying to attack her again; to which she screams and she awakes. Apparently she was having a bad dream and the next scene; the final one sees doctors trying to grab hold of her to calm her down as she appears to be panicking frantically.

Christy's Review:
Camila Belle was beautiful and the house was fantastic, and though I do like the suspense that built up throughout the movie, but that was it. There was absolutely nothing much substantial in the movie plot, honestly, as it was just like a man who was calling Jill and then he attacks her. It was like watching scenes replaying in front of you, and then, it ends and you are left sitting there, "What was that all about?"
Yeah, that was exactly how I felt. Seriously, I could not comprehend the heads or tails or even why this movie was made in the first place.
It was based on an urban legend about a man who stalks and kills babysitters and children and the movie just adapted loosely based on that famous legend.
However, to me, without a solid foundation to the story and adding a little bit more of imagination to create a convincing plot, it is just cheap thrills.
I found myself getting all worked up to a suspense, but for no reason. Okay, maybe I am one who looks for logic and reason for everything; I mean, there must be a reason that the man went berserk and stalks babysitters and children, right, no matter how psychotic he is.
Even if he was a crazy man, there should be a little more light shed especially at the end of the movie instead of assuming that everyone knows what is behind the killer's mind. We are not all psychotic.
Nevertheless, the suspense created in the movie was quite engaging, but really, it could be much better had it a sound plot.

Likes about the movie:
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Camila Belle, definitely, a perfect doe-eyed and pretty little teenager who just made the whole movie an enjoyable watch. Oh, there is that house; who doesn't love that impeccably-designed mansion by the lakeside?

Dislikes about the movie:
Loose adaptation and nothing substantial or interesting about the plot. Felt like watching a kid's movie.

Not too bad of a watch if you are into thrill and suspense, but if you are looking for storyline and reasons like me, then not really.

Rating: 3/5

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