When a Stranger Calls Back (UK video cover).jpg
2 and a half stars

directed by: Fred Walton
starring: Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Jill Schoelen

(back of video blurb):
       "Julie, a young babysitter, is paid a visit by a stranger late in the night. He claims his car has broken down and he needs to use the phone to get assistance. She is afraid to let him into the house so she offers to take down the details and call for herself.

       But the telephone is out of order...

       Fearful of her safety, she lies to the stranger about making the call.

       But, of course, nobody comes to help him. So he returns...

       And she knows she must lie again...

       What she doesn't know is that the notes have disappeared from the notepad. In the kitchen, the kettle she turned off has been switched on and somebody has mysteriously opened the back door...From the inside...

       In the true tradition of the suspense thriller, this is the story of Julie's terror..."

choice dialogue:

"Its dark now...I CAN'T SEE!"

slash with panache?

       Generally a disappointing sequel to Fred Walton's own WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979). WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK opens with another 'urban legend' in the making. Julie (the genre veteran of CUTTING CLASS (1989) and POPCORN (1991)- Jill Schoelen) is baby-sitting two kids whilst their parents are out for the evening. As they sleep Julie is alone in the cavernous downstairs of the house studying- amid ponderous shots of clocks ticking and kettles boiling (accurately recreating the same tension filled build-up of the first movie). Where WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK differs is in the manner in which the 'stranger calls'. The phone does play a part here, but it is not as integral as in the first movie- instead Julie speaks to a man who maintains that his car has broken down, through the front door (she sensibly keeps it shut). He persuades her to phone the repair shop for him, as she won't allow him to come in and phone them himself. The only trouble is that the phone is not working, but she lies and says she did get through in an attempt to get rid of him. But when they don't turn up he returns again and again- and things take a sinister turn.. ...To say anymore would spoil what is (just like the first movie) probably the best scene. But it is enough to say that Julie survives her night of terror and the action shifts to five years later, she is a co-ed (with a nasty 'mullet' style hair do('nt)), who is struggling to overcome the dark shadows of her past. Something which is becomes impossible to do when she realises that someone has been in her apartment and left a single piece of children's clothing in her closet- the same someone, she is convinced, terrorised her five years before. In a state of hysteria she contacts the police who put her fears down to post-traumatic stress syndrome and simply patronise her. The only person who takes her Charles Durning returns to track the new 'stranger'seriously is Jill (Carol Kane), who is now the director of Women's Services on campus- and is able to sympathise because of the similar experience she suffered in the first movie. As the police will do nothing she calls in, the now retired, Charles Durning to investigate. At first he too is sceptical of Julie's claims and thinks that Jill may be letting her past cloud her judgement. Until....

       WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK is, structurally at least, very similar to WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. They both start with a tense prologue- but in the sequels case just less so, and both Carol Kane picks up the phone once more...movies' main middle section is made up with the man hunt/detective angle and they both end with a violent confrontation. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS was an oddity in the slasher genre because of this middle section (something you either love or hate)- I found it refreshing, but a lot of people still find the change of pace (and basically genre) too disjointed. The sequel follows this example but as with the prologue it is 'just less so'. Another of the first film's strengths was the unusual portrayal of the killer- he was shown as a pathetic, even somewhat sympathetic, social mis-fit. A fully rounded and all too real character- in no way the 'standard' slasher bogeyman. The sequel again attempts to portray it's psycho in this light- but fails, mainly because the 'stranger' is given a 'face' way too late on and the character development is rushed. Again without wanting to give away too much, I'll just say that his character has a quirk which stops him being the 'everyman'. A gimmick, which whilst it provides the film's most startling moment (you'll know it when you see it!), just goes to make the whole thing more hokey, and less believable, than the first one. Its not all bad though. The performances are generally fine- especially Carol Kane as the 'survivor', pre-dating Jamie Lee Curtis' similar character in the recent HALLOWEEN:H20 (1998). And there are some very effective set pieces. Unfortunately, as a whole, it seems a little flat and I'll say it again- it's like the first film only less so.

       Apparently the director of both films, Fred Walton- (who also made the enjoyable slasher semi-parody APRIL FOOLS DAY (1986)), is apparently eager to do a third part- WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK ...AGAIN ?

BODYCOUNT 1  bodycount!   female:0 / male:1

       1) Male shot dead