It's an excellent question, and you deserve an answer after I blew off UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION. Why in the screaming yellow hell would I actually stop in for a screening of a PG-13 remake of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS?
Well, part of it is the "old habits die hard" excuse. But it runs a bit deeper. When it came to U:E, I knew I wasn't missing out on an actual horror film. Sure, it had werewolves and vampires, but they were just running around wearing black leather and shooting each other. I didn't care about that one any more than I could have cared about AEON FLUX or the upcoming ULTRAVIOLET.
And the original WHEN A STRANGER CALLS was certainly noteworthy--especially since the entire ad campaign was built around the first twenty minutes. Then it went on too long with the Colleen Dewhurst segment in the middle, etc. etc. Proof that it should have stayed the short film it originally was. But the opening was as scary as it was supposed to be. And whaddya know--the sequel wasn't bad at all, either!
So I was intrigued. What were Simon West and pals going to do with this story? Break it up again? Or stretch the opening segment of the original into a feature-length ordeal? And what audience was it going to play for? People who'd think "phone" horror began with SCREAM? Or has the audience changed so much that they'll think that everything old is new again?
I knew, deep down, that this wasn't going to be impressive to me in the long run. But I DID want to see it with an audience. So... I was in for it.
The opening sets up expectations well--they've retained the concept of the child-murderer that uses only his bare hands, and they set a truly sick situation up without actually showing anything. Of course, in the course of the opening credit sequence, they've basically played the entire gimmick out. As if the location of the caller was supposed to be a surprise... if they didn't spell it out a hundred times in the trailers, well, here's the TITLE sequence to clue you in!!!
Yep--they stretch the opening "babysitter" segment of the original film into an entire movie, and they stretch out the location and characters. Guest house. Live-in maid. High school romance. Boyfriend betrayal. Betraying girlfriend drops in to visit and goes straight for the tequila. That sort of thing.
So when the phone rings, do we get the breathy voice of Lance Henriksen? Or is it the security company? The children's parents? The boyfriend? The police? A prank caller? See--it's spread out so much that the suspense doesn't even get a chance to build.
False scares a-plenty... only this time, none of them work. Well, there's one that'll make some people jump, I guess. But would you believe me if I told you that this movie actually resorts to the CAT running past with a yowl?
The movie is so unbelievably timid, it seems to be more afraid of its audience than its audience is supposed to be afraid of IT. Is this the antidote to SAW, WOLF CREEK and HOSTEL? A film that goes out of its way NOT to offend?
It would be ALMOST worth sitting through this just to see for yourself what they came up with for an ending. Were we supposed to take this SERIOUSLY, or was this movie just not funny enough to qualify for SCARY MOVIE 4 (heck, if they're doing a SAW takeoff, then THAT one I'll gladly go SEE!)?
Well, a couple of audience members seemed to be letting out a tension-relieving sigh at the end of this little extravaganza, but the overall impression I got is that they just couldn't have cared less. And I certainly hope that's the case. I would LOVE to see the "public at large" state that something like this is beneath even THEM.
As a movie, it's next to worthless. As a gauge of what horror filmmakers think people want to see? In some strange way, I'm actually glad I saw it for myself.
Back in action (for now),
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My dog's breath smells like peanut butter...
...and I don't even have a dog!
...and I don't even have a dog!