When A Stranger Calls (1979)
Dr. Mandrakis and his wife are headed out for the night for dinner and a movie and they’ve hired Jill Johnson as their babysitter for the evening.
At first glance Jill appears to be your average, teenage girl. She hangs out downstairs doing her homework and talking on the phone to her friend about boys while the children are upstairs sleeping.
After getting off of the phone with her friend she receives a series of phone calls from a mysterious man who repeatedly keeps asking her if she’s checked the children (which she hasn’t cuz she’s a really shitty babysitter…just sayin’).
Terrified by the phone calls she eventually calls the police who inform her there isn’t anything they can do about the phone calls unless the caller is threatening her or using obscene language (typical – talk about art imitating life). Instead the officer suggests she whistle loudly the next time he calls to deter him from calling again (cuz that’s helpful information right there).
A frustrated Jill gets off the phone with the police and the mysterious caller phones again which prompts Jill to call the police again. The officer tells her that they can try and have the call traced but in order to do that she needs to keep him on the line for at least a minute – which she does.
He ends up freaking her out even more before hanging up on her. The phone rings almost immediately and she picks up the phone and starts screaming that he leave her alone when she’s interrupted by the cop. THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE…OH MY GOD!!! RUN, BITCH, RUN!!!!!!!!!!
She attempts to flee the house, hampered by that damn security chain, and when she finally gets the door open there’s a cop standing there which causes her to let out a blood curdling scream (seriously, bitch…you know the bad guy is upstairs…why the fuck are you screaming?!?!)
The cops apprehend the bad guy, one Curt Duncan, and he is committed to the loony bin until he escapes 7 years later.
Clifford, the cop from the beginning, is now an investigator and he’s hired by Dr. Mandrakis to hunt down the escaped Duncan and get him the justice he was denied when the courts found Duncan insane and had him committed.
A cat-and-mouse game ensues with Clifford nearly catching Duncan a few times (yawn) before he escapes again in downtown Los Angeles.
Unfortunately for Jill, but fortunately for us (thank God it gets interesting again) she still lives in LA and due to her picture being posted in the paper Duncan finds her again. This time she’s married with two kids and while she’s out on a date with her husband and her kids are at home with a babysitter (you have to admit that’s funny) she gets a call from Duncan which causes her to fuh-lip out.
She and her husband, and a couple of cops, race back to the house which leads up to the terrifying conclusion that’s just as tense and heart-racing as the beginning.
Jill Johnson: You really scared me, if that's what you wanted. Is that what you wanted?
Curt Duncan: No.
Jill Johnson: What do you want?
Curt Duncan: Your blood all over me.
When the police phone back to tell Jill where the call is coming from.
A truly terrifying take on the old “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs” urban legend. I watched this movie when I was 12 and the first 20 minutes (and last 20 minutes or so) scared the living bejesus out of me. I didn’t want to babysit for months after seeing it.
With that being said, I feel I need to be brutally honest - most of the film is boring as hell. It suffers from bad editing, over-acting, and Carol Kane’s character is only in the first, and last, sections of the film which is truly disappointing in my opinion. Despite all of that, I still really like this movie.
I do think that the three main parts were well cast. Carol Kane is an amazing actress and she has a very vulnerable look to her. She can also do frightened extremely well.
Tony Beckley’s portrayal of Curt Duncan was truly frightening. He managed to be sinister, creepy, and seriously off-putting with his facial expressions alone.
And Charles Durning, well, he might only be capable of the one facial expression, but he is definitely convincing as a grizzled ex-cop turned investigator hell bent on tracking Duncan’s character down and making him pay for what he did.
All-in-all it is worth seeing. Especially if you’re in the mood for a good scare!
Based on the year the film took place, 1 minute would not be nearly long enough to trace Curt's call. Back when the movie was set, it would've taken 10-20 minutes for several switchboards and circuits to locate the origin of the call.