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Although the original version of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS is considered by many to be minor horror/suspense classic, I personally didnít think the film worthy of a remake, as the second half of the original is such a let down. Fortunately, the makers of the 2006 version of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS ($29) have taken a step in the right direction with the remake by avoiding the same uninspired story choices, which sunk the original film. This version of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS is more of a lean, mean scare machine, which wisely jettisons the second half of the originalís story and expands upon the section of the film that has become iconic, although the movie as a whole does feel a bit padded, even at eighty-seven minutes. Bottom line, the remake of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS isnít great cinema, but the leading lady is really easy on the eyes and the movie makes a great companion to a tub of freshly popped popcorn.

The premise of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS follows teenage Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle), who is being punished for running up an enormous cellular bill by having her phone privileges taken away and have to endure babysitting jobs to pay back mom and dad. To set the stage, Jill is dropped off at the somewhat isolated home for her latest babysitting assignment. With the doctor and his wife off for and evening on the town and the kids put to bed, Jill settles down for a dull evening of homework and parental resentment. Of course, things begin taking a disturbing turn, when Jillís evening is interrupted by a series of prank telephone calls. As the evening progresses, the calls become more sinister, leading up to the ultimate realization of where the calls are coming from. The cast of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS also features Tommy Flanagan, Katie Cassidy, Tessa Thompson, Brian Geraghty, Clark Gregg, Derek de Lint, Kate Jennings Grant, David Denman, Arthur Young and Madeline Carroll.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made WHEN A STRANGER CALLS available on DVD in a 2.40:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This being a relatively new film, it should come as no surprise that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers the goods in terms of image quality. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS produces a sharp, clean and nicely defined picture. Colors are richly saturated and produce highly attractive flesh tones. Blacks are deep and the whites pure. Contrast is terrific, as is the level of shadow detail. The film elements are virtually pristine and there is very little grain apparent during the presentation. Digital compression artifacts are generally well concealed.

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS comes with a competently mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Since this really isnít an action film, there isnít too much activity in the outlying channels. Occasional zingers and other mild effects, as well as some ambience fill out the rears, while the forward soundstage sees the majority of the activity. Fidelity is strong, with the music coming across nicely and sound effects being convincing. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the filmís dialogue is always completely understandable. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extras. Two running audio commentaries are provided, the first features director Simon West and actress Camilla Belle, while the second is with writer Jake Wade Wall. An eighteen minute Making Of featurette, Deleted Scenes and Bonus Trailers close out the extras.

As I stated above, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS isnít great cinema, but it teams up with a tub of popcorn rather well. Sonyís DVD wonít generate any complaints and neither will staring at the filmís leading lady for eighty-seven minutes.



When a Stranger Calls (2006)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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