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.