When A Stranger Calls (2006)

(In theaters, February 2006) Some movies don’t have a reason for existing, and this is one of them. A limp thriller that takes far too long to get to the point and then does nothing with it, When A Stranger Calls is mass-produced entertainment for the undemanding teenage audiences. Don’t worry, though; even the stupidest teenager won’t be fooled by this slick and lifeless rehash of a punchy urban legend. Audiences nowadays are familiar with the “…inside the house!” punchline, and making them wait 65 minutes for it is just another mark of incompetence in a long list of problems for this film. Director Simon West has done some acceptable work before (Con Air, The General’s Daughter), but even a good grasp of technical fundamentals can’t mask the lack of thrills in this thriller. While the set design is fabulous (When A Stranger Calls is yet another film where the house is more interesting than all the characters put together) the rest is so obvious that audiences are constantly smarter than the screenwriter. The discovery of an underwater corpse is more likely to evoke a sense of expectations fulfilled than anything approaching horror. Don’t worry if you’re reading this and can’t remember even hearing about this remake: given how it failed to find a reason to exist, how can it even find a way to aspire to posterity?

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