When a Stranger Calls (2006)

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Released 14-Aug-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-x2
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Making Of
Trailer-The Da Vinci Code, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
Trailer-Monster House, Population 436, Ulta Violet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 83:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Simon West
Studio
Distributor
SONY Pictures
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Camilla Belle
Tommy Flanagan
Katie Cassidy
Tessa Thompson
Brian Geraghty
Clark Gregg
Derek de Lint
Kate Jennings Grant
David Denman
Arthur Young
Madeline Carroll
Steve Eastin
John Bobek
Case ?
RPI $35.95 Music James Michael Dooley


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When A Stranger Calls has nothing to do with the endless and annoying phone calls we get from Indian Call Centres. Rather, it's a case of another month - another unnecessary 1970s horror remake. But when this Stranger calls - just hang up - or he might bore you to death.

    The original version of When A Stranger Calls was released in 1979, amongst the slew of low-budget slasher flicks that were churned out following the significant box-office success of John Carpenter’s Halloween. Interestingly I, like many others, can only remember the very tense Act One of the original, in which a teenage babysitter (Carol Kane) is terrorized by a maniacal serial killer who repeatedly phones her.

    When A Stranger Calls also spawned a 1993 made-for-cable sequel, When A Stranger Calls Back, which has fortunately been long forgotten.

    With the 2006 version of When A Stranger Calls, scriptwriter Jake Wade Wall and Director Simon West decided to develop Act One of the original into a full length feature film. In the remake, teenage babysitter Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle) is dropped off by her father at the bizarre yet stunning remote lakeside home of Dr and Mrs. Mandrakis (Derek de Lint and Kate Jennings Grant).

    It's a bit odd that they need a babysitter at all, considering the kids are already asleep, and they have a live-in housekeeper (Rosine ‘Ace’ Hatem), and a college-age son, but anyway . . .

    Moping over her cheating boyfriend Bobby (Brian Geraghty), Jill settles in to watching television, but starts getting strange phone calls (the voice on the phone is provided by Lance Henriksen).

    However, after setting up a promising premise, there is no genuine suspense, just a series of shameless plot contrivances, boo scares, and a flock of red herrings.

    The actors, writer, and director all seem to have decided to sit back and let the film's heavy-handed composer James Dooley and the movie's Foley artists do all the work.

    In this one-trick-pony of a film, unnerved by the increasingly weird calls Jill wanders around the house and is exposed to a series of horror movie clichés, including phones that suddenly ring, mysterious shadows moving across the wall, lights flickering in a storm, wind rustling branches, cats jumping out, cars that won't start, and keys being fumbled and dropped.

    Along the way, Jill’s man-stealing “best friend” Tiffany (Katie Cassidy) visits and gets a nasty surprise.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is excellent on this well-authored disc.

    The widescreen transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is excellent, as can be seen with the detail in the exterior shot of the house and garden at 11:59. The black level is excellent throughout with true, deep blacks. With many dark and shadowy scenes, fortunately the shadow detail is also excellent, as can be seen with the house at night at 23:31, and the interior of the dark hallway at 65:18.

    The film's set, costume, and overall production design are fantastic. Colour is used strongly throughout, and the DVD has a rich, well-saturated palette. Skin tones are accurate.

    There are no problems with MPEG artefacts, such as pixelization.

    There are also no problems with Film-To-Video Artefacts, such as aliasing or telecine wobble.

    A few small film artefacts, for example tiny black or white flecks, appear infrequently throughout, but these were never distracting and were hard to spot.

    English, Hindi, English for the Hearing Impaired and English Audio Commentary subtitles are provided. The English subtitles are accurate.

    This is a Dual Layer disc, with the layer change placed at 58:49. The feature is divided into 28 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    As one would expect from a recent big-budget horror film, the movie has a brilliant sound design.

    There are three audio tracks on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary 2 Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent on the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

    The musical score is credited to James Dooley, and while it is often heavy-handed, it is effective as it helps set the uneasy and eerie mood for the many 'boo' scares throughout.

    The surround presence and activity is very aggressive. Apart from supporting many of the surround effects and 'boo' scares, the rear speakers are often used to provide ambience, such as the creepy sounds at 35:21 or the wind at 28:32.

    The film boasts a wonderful LFE track, and the subwoofer is utilised very effectively throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a few extras.

Menu

    Animated with audio.

Trailer?

    The DVD opens with that very annoying, overly loud forced anti-piracy commercial. As I have previously mentioned, in an interesting irony the only way to avoid being subjected to this forced advert is to watch a pirated copy of the movie, as DVD copying software such as AnyDVD or One Click DVD can easily remove it.

Audio Commentary 1

   Presented in Dolby Stereo Surround, Director Simon West and Actress Camilla Belle provide a chatty, screen-specific commentary with plenty of anecdotes and trivia. Often, however, they merely just narrate what's happening on-screen.

Audio Commentary 2

   Presented in Dolby Stereo Surround, Scriptwriter Jake Wade Wall talks us through his script, which a much more technical approach to the story and film.

Deleted Scenes

   A few deleted scenes presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, but not 16x9 enhanced; and with stereo audio.

The Making Of (18:07)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with stereo audio, Director Simon West and key cast and crew skim the surface of the production, discussing locations, sets, casting, and some other facets of the production.

Trailers

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 and R4 are basically the same, but the R1 also includes preview trailers for RV, The Cave, Final Fantasy VII, Talladega Nights, The Cutting Edge: Going For Gold, Marie Antoinette, The Benchwarmers, The Pink Panther, The Ultimate James Bond Collection, Click and The Fog.

Summary

    A slasher flick set inside an Indian Call Centre? Now that's something I'd love to see.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent, and very atmospheric.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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