Evil Asks, Why Haven’t You Checked the Children? “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” review!


High schooler Jill takes a babysitting job, overseeing two sleeping children while the parents have date night. The phone rings and an assumed prankster tries to scare Jill, either asking why she hasn’t checked the children or doesn’t say a word, but as Jill fields calls throughout the night with the same terrorizing voice, the terrified sitter phones the police whom trace the call from inside the house. Jill barely escapes the deadly encounter that left two children victims to a psychopath; yet the now happily married, mother of two small children is faced with the same killer seven years later after he escapes from a mental institution. Hot on his trail is detective turned private eye John Clifford who will stop at nothing from stopping a maniac who will kill again. Years later, Jill and Clifford team up once more to investigate a similar case of a co-ed being specifically terrorized by an obsessive stalker through the span of five years to the point where his next move could be her last.

Perhaps one of the best, if not the best, openings to a horror movie ever, Fred Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls” puts a freeze on the heart, forces to choke down the breath, and tightens the already painfully clenched fists with sheer, thick tension bred from an urban legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs. Walton, and co-writer Steve Feke (“Mac and Me”), develop two successful thriller from script to screen, spanning over the course of 14-years. Walton’s uncanny ability to invoke fear through a conduit of simple objects, such as a telephone ring or in the thicket of dead silence, and leading a direction of motivational hesitation or slowness to the story and through it’s characters is dread absolute. There’s similarities between Fred Walton and “The Driller Killer” director Abel Ferrara with a scent of realism and grittiest blanketed with a knack for the abstract in certain facets. Though slightly fluffier to Ferrara’s shock value, Walton builds anticipation in not just his hit first film in 1979, but also in his made for TV movie in 1993.

Starring as the lead in both films is Carol Kane. The “Scrooged” actress shells out a white knuckling performance in Jill, the terrorized babysitter phoned inside the house by man upstairs. The harrowing night that will scar for Jill for life will continue through into the sequel, “When A stranger Calls Back.” As Jill grows through both films, so does Kane who builds the character a tougher exterior to match wits with second psychopath stalking a hapless co-ed. She’s teamed with legendary actor Charles Durning. Essentially in Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls,” Kane and Durning never have any scenes together, performing in almost two separate stories until the climatic that intertwined that collaboration. During’s a fine actor and can be the bull of any detective and/or private dick lead, but, to be honest, Durning always carried a hefty, front-heavy load that didn’t quite fit his character, John Clifford, chasing on foot a much leaner foe. “When A Stranger Calls” cast also includes Ron O’Neal (“The Final Countdown”), Tony Beckley (“In the Devil’s Garden”), and Colleen Dewhurst (“The Dead Zone”) while “When A Stranger Calls Back” also includes Jill Schoelen (“The Stepfather”) and Gene Lythgow.

A fleeting glimpse of brilliancy can go relatively unnoticed in Fred Walton’s “When A Stranger Calls.” Much of what makes the film so effective is essentially obsolete; for example, rotary phones are dinosaurs or even landlines for that matter. Also, the way Walton breaks up the film into a definitive three separate acts perfectly stretches the urban legend much more than warranted and the director also completes the story and character arcs. Dana Kaproff’s sophomore score can be characterized as menacing, suspenseful, and aesthetically unfit to the point of inspiring dreadful sensations that heighten the story’s already engrossing nature. In “When A Stranger Calls Back,” the opening is basically a mirror image of the original film with a slight (of hand) change and the narrative itself is captivating enough to get engrossed with, but there’s something about the made for TV movie that doesn’t quite sit right. Perhaps, the killer’s underdeveloped motives doesn’t make things crystal clear or just maybe the killer’s use of a ventriloquist and body art into his perverted and obsessive arsenal is too zany. Despite being a made for television movie, Walton’s followup film was premiere on Showtime back in 1993, giving the movie a not-so-diluted and PG-13 appeal; instead, bits of grittiness and some strip club nudity rivals the tone of it’s predecessor.

Second Sight presents “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” double feature on Blu-ray home video in the United Kingdom. Despite the upgrade, a DVD-R was provided for the review so technical aspects will not be reviewed. The disc did include bonus features such as Fred Walton’s inspirational short film “The Sitter” and interviews with director Fred Walton, Rutanya Alda, and Dana Kaproff, and Carol Kane. Carol Kane has more recently been the quirky and city-salty landlady that’s quick to whip sarcasms and clobber any hipster with a gentrifying agenda with a baseball bat in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” but Fred Walton saw Kane for how the actress could truly perform under a realistically terrifying moment, a moment that savors being on tenterhooks and frozen in time for almost the last 40 years as a classic and iconic scene in horror movie history. “When A Stranger Calls” and “When A Stranger Calls Back” is simple, yet deploys effective thrills with pure impending loom and dread in massive, lucrative quantities that may have been antiquated by time, but is epitomized as vintage and elegantly construed horror.

Small Town Evil Under a Full Moon! “Silver Bullet” review!


A small town is under sieged by a callous killer, ripping victims to bloody pieces and shreds without an ounce of mercy. As the town goes into a lockdown curfew, a paraplegic young boy named Marty decides to enact his own version of rebellious fun with a stroll in his gas-engine powered wheelchair for some nighttime fireworks, despite a killer on the loose and lurking in the moonlight. Marty’s fun turns into a terrifying nightmare when the killer stalks the boy and when Marty comes face to face with the killer and lives to tell the tale, he discovers that the town maniac is no ordinary deranged person but, in fact, a nasty, snarling werewolf whose also living in plain sight amongst them in the small town community. The only two to believe Marty’s harrowing tale is his older sister, Jane, and his drunk Uncle Red, whose still on the fence about Marty’s werewolf encounter. When the moon is high and full, the three devise a plan to lure out the monster to definitively put it down with a single shot from their one and only silver bullet.

A true piece of Americana horror, “Silver Bullet” remains a staple werewolf flick for those who grew up watching genre films in the 1980s. Daniel Attias, his first and only ever feature film, had embraced a larger-than-life monster movie from a script written by the legendary macabre novelist Stephen King, based off his novella “Cycle of the Werewolf.” Attias and King were practically novices when in regards to directing and screenplays; yet, “Silver Bullet” offers much in the way of comedy, drama, and the frightening scares with a practical effects wolf and snippets of gruesome, violent death at the hands of the beast. “Silver Bullet” goes beyond just being a thrilling story of good versus evil by also blurring the lines of the conventional establishment that spark up the old idiom, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and dives into a satirical outlook of certain religious faiths and their viewpoints.

What makes “Silver Bullet” as one of the most recognizable and rememberable films, regardless of some microscopic sloppy screenwriting and first time directing woes, is the cast. Before his life altering motorcycle accident, Gary Busey (“Predator 2”) as Uncle Red brings flesh and bone, and booze, to akin King’s Uncle Al character from the novella. Busey fabricates a wonderful, heartwarming performance dynamic with Marty, whose played by the late Corey Haim (“Lost Boys”). Haim is fresh to the scene with his chubby cheeks and doughy soft eyes that would eventually make him a heartthrob idol later into his career and at the young age of thirteen, Haim’s paraplegic performance is respectable and empowering. Uncle Red and Marty are pitted against a sleeper antagonist in Revered Lester Lowe, a role who I could see no one else being in aside from Everett McGill (“People Under the Stairs”). McGill has a face for television, or the big screen in this case, as his chiseled, dark features make him a formidable foe that’s hidden behind a clerical collar. Longtime television and TV movie star Megan Follows plays big sister Jane whom factors in as Marty’s only ally despite their dysfunctional relationship which Follows portrays well with verbal jabs of adolescent wickedness toward her disabled little brother. Rounding out the cast is Terry O’Quinn (“The Stepfather”), Bill Smitrovich (“Manhunter”), and “Reservior Dogs” Lawrence Tierney.

Television cooking show host, Giada De Laurentiis’ grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, produced the film who was no stranger to the horror genre, such as “Orca” and “Amityville II,” nor to films adapted from Stephen King’s work like the “Dead Zone.” Under Luarentiis’ wing, “Silver Bullet” delivered brutal, traumatizing werewolf kills spun from the werewolf suit creating hands of another Italian, Carlo Rambaldi (“The Hand That Feeds the Dead”), and together, the two Italian filmmakers, along with an apt cast and crew, saw their installment flourish amongst an overcrowded werewolf subgenre in the early 1980’s with competition from films such as John Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London,” “The Howling,” and, yes, even “Teen Wolf.” “Silver Bullet” didn’t just arrive on the scene without some challenges to the storyline. For instance, a killing spree has already established with more than five townsfolk dead and a strict curefew has been set in place, but Marty, ignoring his Uncle Red’s solicited advice about staying near the house to set off fireworks, sneaks out in the middle of the night to shoot off fireworks away from the house. Marty’s fairly bright through the entire story and a nice kid, but the initial encounter between him and the werewolf is by far one of the most unintelligent and dim-witted action any character to make in the history of horror films. What makes the scenario even worse is that Marty is handicapped.

Umbrella Entertainment presents Daniel Attias’ “Silver Bullet” on region B Blu-ray home video in a widescreen 2.35.1 aspect ratio. Image quality of the full high-definition 1080p picture has an agreeable color palette, sharpness, and pinpoint details that especially come to light during the memorable church of wolves scene. A very few scenes have transfer instability where, in a blink of an eye, a revert to a faded frame comes into the fold. The English 2.0 DTE-HD master audio poises and harmonizes the elements and the dialogue into a vat of consistency that isn’t flawed by track damage. Jay Chattaway rallying, chilling score is a candor testament to the quality of the soundtrack that follows suit right behind the beyond par quality of the dialogue and ambient levels. Special features include audio commentary with director Daniel Attias, interviews with special effects artists Michael McCracken, Jr (“Deep Blue Sea”) & Matthew Mingle (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), an interview with actor Everett McGill, an Umbrella exclusive interview with producer Martha De Laurentii’s remembering “Silver Bullet,” isolated score selections and audio interviews with composer James Chattaway, theatrical trailer, TV Spots, radio spot, and still gallery. A complete and definitive set from Umbrella Entertainment! “Silver Bullet” is a howling success story of classic American horror that has timeless practical effects, a riveting narrative, and cast enriched characters that invest into the lycanthropy film paralleling David versus Goliath.

So, you think your dad is evil? The Stepfather review!

Powerful opening scenes are hard to come by as Hollywood’s creativity diminishes with each and every year.  In fact, creativity and imagination is practically dead in Tinsel Town.  Now-a-days, we have to rely on indie productions to fulfill the gaps of dullness in our lives when it comes to fantasy.  Luckily, our hi technological ways have brought us the power of recording images; in this case, VHS, DVD and Blu-ray.  Joseph Ruben directed a memorable opening scene of Terry O’Quinn, you know, the guy from the hit TV series Lost, walked down the stairs to a mutilated layout.  No words, hardly an action had to translate the scene.  This is a specific time in perfection.

Jerry Blake is a traditional family man; he enjoys dinner with his wife and child; he works in real estate and provides a good upbringing for the most inexcusable children.  This perfect husband is far from perfect. He’s actually a deranged psychopath in search for a traditional family setting and if they turn out disobedient, he turns them into sliced deli meat.  After he finishes up, he moves to another serene town on the lookout for a single mother with fatherless kids to work his way into and start all over again.

Continue reading