Monday, March 9, 2009

Urban Legend: When a Stranger Calls

Many stories are handed down from generation to generation in the form a modern folklore or urban legends. Urban legends are stories that are spread in various forms that are usually false though believed to be real by those telling them. Some believe that they are based on real events making the tales even more twisted. The substance of these stories usually consists of humor or horror. Sometimes the stories are told around campfires or at slumber parties with the person telling the story holding a flashlight under their chin for visual effects. Many horror movies are based on urban legends of one sort of another. One of the stories circulating around is the one about the babysitter. The horror/thriller movie, "When a Stranger Calls", was based on this very story and scared many of us from babysitting other people's children. I saw the 1979 version of the movie in the theatre with my friends. I am the biggest chicken when it comes to watching horror flicks even though I still loved to watch them. In 1979 there were fewer theatres so waiting in long lines was typical so you wasn't sure which show time you would make. Most of the time I just hated it when a tall person sat in front of me except during a horror flick. But as luck or lack of luck would have it, we ended up in the second row and had a perfectly clear view of the screen. Now I had to depend on squinting my eyes or looking through the fence fingers during the intense scenes. The fence fingers are just my hand in front of my face with my fingers slightly apart enough for me to see the movie. The first part of the movie, which starred Carol Kane as the babysitter, was based on the babysitter urban legend. The story begins with Jill (Kane) at the home of a doctor and his wife watching their children. The children are upstairs sleeping when Jill's terror begins. She receives a phone call from a mysterious man asking her questions about what she is doing and asking “have you checked the children”? At first, she just dismisses the calls as a practical joke but the calls kept coming along with more frightening threats. She becomes so scared that she calls the police. They told her that she needed to keep him on the phone long enough so they can trace the call. Now watch the video and see what happens next.



Although this story has been told many times with different variations of what happen, the basic story is still the same. Some stories say that the babysitter hears heavy breathing with the killing telling her that he is coming to get her. The part where she calls the police, they trace the call and tell her to “get out” because the man is inside the house, is basically the same. The killer getting away and the children being dead are also told the same in this Urban Legend.

The movie, “When a Stranger Calls” goes beyond the Urban Legend letting us know what may have happened afterwards. (If you haven’t seen it then maybe you would not want to read on.) The middle of the movie is slow where we follow the killer, Curt, after he escapes from the asylum and the retired detective, Clifford, tracking him down. We now find Jill as an adult, married with children of her own. Curt just happens to find out where she was living from a newspaper article. Jill and Stephen, her husband, go out to dinner and get a babysitter to watch their two kids. Jill receives a call at the restaurant, answers it only to have the creepy voice of Curt on the other end asking, “Have you checked the children?” Jill freaks out; they call the police and head home to find everything just fine with the babysitter and the children. Later, we see Jill having trouble sleeping, as you can imagine, and in the kitchen getting milk when all of a sudden, the lights go out. She heads back to bed and hears what appears to be Curt’s chilling voice whispering to her from the closet where the door is ajar. She shakes her husband, trying to wake him up, but it was Curt that was in bed with her. He rips her nightgown, chases her around the room, trying to kill her. Officer Clifford shows up in time to shoot Curt and kill him. Jill’s husband was knocked out in the closet and still alive.

During the climax of this movie, I hid my eyes, my friend Mary grabbed my leg and dug her nails in, and my friend Deb’s popcorn, (whatever she had left) was all over the place. Oh my, we sure enjoyed that adrenalin rush. You can’t beat a good horror/thriller movie that has an intense ending. I have seen the more current version of this movie but did not care for it.

There are many urban legends out there; this is just one of them. Look for Mike and myself to blog about other urban legends that have movies made from them or the ones we just like to talk about.

16 comments:

  1. Yahoo-it's a classic! They just don't make them like that anymore (boy that makes me feel old). I saw it in high school when it came out. It was chilling. There were a lot of rumors going around that it happened in our town. My friends in other towns said the same. Amazing how something that "could possible be real" like could spawn a lot of urban legends. The remake sucked big-time, but I do give it kudos as my ultimate dream house! I saw they're making "Last House on the Left" (leave it alone--it was a cultural thing of the early 70s, no longer applies nowadays). Sort of like the remake of "Friday the 13th." They really didn't need to remake a 70s classic when it just doesn't have the impact it did back then. Have kids even gone to camp nowadays? I think the computer-related horror scares them more. Oh well, I keep it in my collection and watch it when it's rainy and nasty outside.

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  2. I always thought this urban legend was pretty unsettling. To know that there is someone in your house calling you from another phone. Ugh, gives me the heebie jeebies!

    I have seen both original and re-make of When a Stranger Calls. I'm actually not a fan of either. I detested the remake, calling it one of the worst movies brought to the silver screen in this decade. I saw the original and was dissapointed but how little the "when a stranger calls" was about. That only took up about 7 or 8 minutes of the film. The rest of it was about the police officer trying to catch the guy who did it. I was totally thrown off by that movie. I did not find it remotely appealing. But again...I'm a child of the late 80's/early 90's....

    --Mike--

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  3. Mikey;
    I'm in agreement about the rest of the movie. I do admit, I usually quit watching it when it got into the police trying to find the guy... If only they could piece movies together to satisfy all our needs. My son laughed at me the other day because I was watching "Cold Creek Manor." I couldn't really explain that the house reminded me so much of my childhood home and the woods around it, that I only watch it for atmosphere. I'm a girl--we're really into ambiance, so I have movies just for moods and atmosphere. In the springtime, I watch "Captain Ron" because I just like the idea of sailing around on a boat in the warm climes with Kurt Russell, in the winter I want to see "30 Days of Night" for a cold scare and my Alaska fix. It's like candles and slow dancing--girls can overlook anything if we have the right mood/setting. :-)

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  4. In 1979 this horror/thiller lived up to its reputation. For its time, you got the adrenalin rush you paid the money to get. It scared the crap out of me and many others in that theatre. The remake was terrible but maybe I was looking for that same intense feeling I got with the first one and it didn't deliver. I can understand the youngin's like Mike not liking this movie. I would probably feel the same if I saw it for the first time recently instead of when it was first released. The middle of the movie was boring but the beginning and end were good. To me a good horror flick has the thriller moments that makes me hide my eyes in anticipation instead of just plain ol' blood and guts.

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  5. Hey Autumn, are you going to see the "Last House on the Left" remake? If so let us know what you thought of it. I will also watch certain movies depending on my mood, on cable, even if I have seen it before. BTW, I like "Captain Ron", swab.

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  6. Yes, lol, I am definitely a youngin'. I agree that if I had watched it when it first came out (although this is an impossibility lol) I probably would have been more freaked out by it. But the movie still looses TONS of steam when it becomes a police procedural drama. The beginning is in fact incredibly tense and very unnerving. That is something I will never want to experience.

    I plan to see the remake of "Last House on the Left" this weekend at some point. I will definitely put up my Freaky Flicks blog if I am able to catch it. I know the original version was banned in SEVERAL countries and still is to this day. It's a cult classic, and this remake to me looks very suspenseful and really sleek and cool. Can't wait to see it.

    --Mike--

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  7. Mike, I'm glad that you are going to add "Last House on the Left" to your Freaky Flicks blog. Can't wait to read it.

    Not only do I like horror movies with a bit of thriller thrown in but I also love it more when it has that surprise ending like in movies such as: The Others, Sixth Sense, Fight Club, Idenity, The Life of David Gale and The Mist (I haven't seen this on yet but everyone tells me that the end is a complete surprise so I'm sure I will love it.)

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  8. I love a good surprise ending. I love it in thriller or horror movies! Sometimes they are also amazing in non-horror films. The one from The Life of David Gale got me good! It's amazing how I never saw it coming...you think you would....

    Another good "unexpected" ending is the one from one of my top three favorite films of all time: Magnolia. Not a "twist" ending persay...but a darn surprising one that I never expected to happen!! One of my favorite film endings ever!

    The ending of The Mist is quite possibly one of the most shocking film conclusions I've ever seen. I won't spoil it, since Julie has not seen it but man is it a mind blower! I don't know if you will "love" it....most people don't love the ending itself but appreciate the rare shock value of it...but I as a film fan appreciate the extreme boldness the director showed with that finale. Awesome ending!

    --Mike---

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  9. Yes, definitely see "The Mist." It felt like Stephen King was channelling M. Knight somehow. He sort of updated from his usual course. "Last House..." that's a tough call. I love the original. I remember sneaking to see that when I was a teen and it had been out a long while then. I was freaked out for a long time because as a young girl, you figure you can pretty much go anywhere and do anything but I felt vulnerable all of a sudden. It was amazing. So gritty that it felt like a reality filming. I'm up in the air about seeing the remake. Sometimes when it comes to new releases, I decide if they have to be seen on big screen or not. I might wait for DVD on that one, but I definitely want to see "A Haunting in Connecticut." I doubt it can compare to the "A Haunting" episode on Discovery because it looks like it will use a lot of crazy effects and get kind of Japanese horror on us, but I'm gonna see it anyways. Growing up in a Civil War hospital...I can totally get the feel of sleeping where people have died...

    If I could order remake's of classic horror movies, there's not many I'd want anyone to touch (they hosed up "The Haunting"), but I would like to see a remake of "The Changeling." I'm like Mikey in that I don't like when a movie gets off the horror course and that one spent a bit too much time with the politician and all that. I'd like it to be more strictly the kid and the floorboards and the well and that creepy room... I think for the lead I'd put Tim Robbins. Sounds weird, but I have a feeling he could do that really well...

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  10. A remake of The Changeling would be good I think! The story is subtle enough, and does not call the need for any form of visual effects. Of course Hollywood would make room for stupid computer ghost effects anyway. I agree the one downfall to that film is they did spend a little to much time away from that house, and with that old politician guy. Yes, makes for a solid, well connected storyline with a purpose...but shorten that time up.

    A story like that would have to be changed for today's purposes, because 1) we've seen it plenty of times before and 2) younger audiences are generally the only ones who see this films these days, and that story I don't think would appeal to them. That's why in the remake of When A Stranger Calls they made the WHOLE film about the house and the babysitter and took out ALL the police stuff. Today's audiences just want scares and blood. Sadly.

    But I still think they should remake The Changeling. Of course that would confuse people now because of the Angelina Jolie film, Changeling (a great, great movie by the way). I have to say I think Tim Robbins would make a good lead in that film...I can see that. George C. Scott was a bit cooky in the film and real life and Robbins is actually really good at playing these eccentric, oddball types.

    --Mike--

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  11. Heads up-- on www.upcominghorrormovies.com they listed a "Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever" coming out in April. I apprciated that film a lot, it just wasn't my kind of scary, even though it had a similar feel to zombie movies--which I adore, I just wasn't that into it.

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  12. I have to agree about remaking the classic horror movies, not always a good thing. Even though the special effects are cheezy by modern standards, they still have that chill factor that many of us remember and love. The movies that have stories that can possibly happen in real life tend to scare me more, like this one. Maybe this didn't really happen but it is possible. Even movies with bigfoot, demons and alien subjects can be quite scary if done right.

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  13. I'm actually a bit upset by news of a Cabin Fever 2. I really was not a fan of the first one, mainly because it was disgusting to the point of making me want to throw up. I liked the concept....

    And yes I agree with Jules. A lot of the time it's horror movies that have a down to earth, realistic premise that is usually the more terrifying for me personally. When a Stranger Calls...that can happen, and that horrifying to me! Ghost movies, when done right....*shiver* lol. I'm just waiting for them to make a genuinely GREAT and SCARY ghost movie...they seem far and few between. Last year we had The Orphanage (or El Orfanato)...that was really good!

    -Mike--

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  14. Oh yes, this has to be the classic horror movie of our generation. No movie since has terrified me more. I watched it in the summer of 1984 with a group of my girlfriends at one of their parents homes, who were away for the weekend. We rented the vcr (ah, back in the days) and the tape, turned out the lights and watched in horror. All of us babysat at the time. There were several moments where we all screamed in unison. lol I had some real issues w/babysitting after that, especially given the fact that we also were told the movie was based on a true story.

    To this day I still watch scary movies w/those fence fingers.

    And yes, the remake, despite having some scary moments, cannot compare to the original.

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    1. Yep.but my mother n laws mom was the girls friend and this is a very true story. Her mom and the friend(babysitter) told my mother n law about the whole thing WAYYY before the movie was ever thought of

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  15. This is a true story. My mother n law had a friend that knew the girl that was the baby sitter! It is very true and the girl was very scared and frightened. Scary how anything like this can happen to anyone at any time

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