Amidst the post-Halloween boom in stalk and slash, Fred Walton's original 1979 version of When a Stranger Calls stood out as a highly effective alternative and was one of the most talked-about titles of that year. The opening twenty minutes are fondly remembered as one of the most suspenseful of all time, something the remake of the film didn't tap into as well.
This brand-new Blu-ray remaster is accompanied in a limited edition set with its made-for-TV sequel, When a Stranger Calls Back, along with brand-new extras and will certainly hit the right note with fans who loved it decades ago, as well as more modern horror fans retracing their steps through the older titles.
Carol Kane and Charles Durning feature in both films as babysitter turned college counsellor Jill Johnson and detective-turned-private-eye John Clifford. In the first film, Johnson suffers an ordeal at the hands of a mysterious killer at the outset during a stint as a babysitter, whilst Clifford follows the case over several years.
In the second, the duo re-team to help a college student to deal with a similarly traumatising experience at the hands of another perverse individual five years previous when she, like Johnson in the earlier film, suffers an ordeal whilst babysitting...
Seen today, although the main character as babysitter is reminiscent of Laurie Strode, When a Stranger Calls is tonally different and has a nastier streak more akin to later films. The character focus in the first film splits between several characters; it's a little left-field as a narrative device, but done with a little more subtlety than others in the frame around that time.
Happily, writer/director Walton is on board for both films and although the pair of them share the same opening, the follow-up does have a fair amount of tension to match the admirable original. Having Kane and Durning reprising their roles as well works wonders.
It's also great that the lesser-seen sequel is getting a co-release alongside the big-screen classic and whilst time might have impacted the film, a certain line of dialogue will make its best effort to haunt a new generation of home video viewers. A host of extras compliment this attractive package.
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979) + WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK (1993) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: FRED WALTON / SCREENPLAY: STEVE FEKE, FRED WALTON / STARRING: CAROL KANE, CHARLES DURNING, JILL SCHOELEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW