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Monday, February 06, 2006

When a Stranger Calls . . . Again

Though I saw an all-time great movie on Saturday (the Marx Bros.' A Night at the Opera), I'd like to talk about the highest-grossing movie at the box office. If you hadn't heard, it was a remake of When a Stranger Calls. The original may have brought some loot in and the remake brought some in too, but still, the original When a Stranger Calls is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Now, with the recent post on Bram Stoker's Dracula, don't think I try to intentionally watch bad movies. I don't like to marvel at all of the bad movies I've seen in my life, but seeing the ads for the WASC remake reminds me of when I watched the original in college.

As a film nut and a horror fan of films like Scream, Halloween and Psycho, I heard mentions about When a Stranger Calls. Its first fifteen minutes had a reputation as being pretty scary (the creepy phonecalls are coming from inside the house) and this part was paid some homage to in the first fifteen minutes of Scream. That was enough of a hook for me to check out the movie. While I'm glad I saw the movie once, I'm glad I don't have to see it again.

Essentially, the killer kills the two kids the babysitter is babysitting, escapes into the world and comes back to terrorize the babysitter. Simple premise, but the execution shoots the movie in the foot. The pace slows down to a crawl and the acting is pretty lame. Going nowhere plot-wise, the killer comes back for a nice little "Gotcha!" in the third act.

Thinking about the movie now, When a Stranger Calls feels like another relic from the post-Halloween terror/Friday the 13th shlock. Well it is, but this doesn't help it age over time. So, there is a chance to remake the movie and make it into a possibly better movie. While I haven't seen the remake, I think more remakes of bad movies should be done if Hollywood continues to remake older movies. As much as I groan at the sound of remakes, I give the studios some credit for trying to make a stinker into something a little better.

I haven't heard great things about the When a Stranger Calls remake, but think about the Ocean's Eleven remake. The original Ocean's Eleven had a reputation of being one of the worst Rat Pack movies and I think there was a sigh of relief with the remake. So, why aren't more bad old movies remade instead of older, great, time-tested movies?

Familiarity with subject matter is crucial in selling a movie to a mass audience. In the case of When a Stranger Calls, it's a splatter flick, pure and simple. It's not high art or ground-breaking. With splatter flicks, just pair up a crazy guy with people in distress and throw in some scary music and you have some eye candy. The original When a Stranger Calls wasn't that great nor was it very well-known, so there wasn't much to lose with a remake.

Remakes are still coming in, whether their originals were good or not. Seeing the preview for the upcoming remake of The Shaggy Dog, I groan in pain. I stay away from this kind of stuff and spend more time watching other stuff, like classics from the Marx Bros. Next up: Duck Soup.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know the real answer to your question, but maybe Hollywood no longer knows (if it ever did) the difference between a good and a bad movie. With a universal lack of originality in at least the blockbuster films, it's no wonder that so many movies touted as "new" are also just renamed remakes. Argh! Even when I'm drawn to a theater to see a movie, the experience is so bad I want my money back. And people wonder how I live without cable TV.

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