DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK (TV) (director/writer: Fred Walton; screenwriter: based on characters created by Steve Feke & Fred Walton; cinematographer: David Geddes; editor: David Byron Lloyd ; music:  Dana Kaproff ; cast: (Jill Schoelen (Julia), Carol Kane (Jill Johnson), Charles Durning (Clifford), Duncan Fraser (Clunb Owner), Gene Lythgow (Hyde), Kevin McNulty (Dr. Schifrin), Cheryl Wilson (Mrs. Schifrin), Jerry Wasserman (Detective Brauer); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Tom Rowe; Goodtimes Home Video (MCA Universal Home Video); 1993)

"It's a decent nail-biter that plays on the tension it builds up, despite its gaps in logic."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A made-for-television thriller, shot in Vancouver, that's the sequel to the 1979 When A Stranger Calls. This one is also written and directed by Fred Walton ("The Rosary Murders"/"April Fool's Day"/"Hadley's Rebellion"). It's the suspenseful retelling of the "babysitter murders". The pic is noted for its brilliant opening sequence, while the rest is only so-so.

Teenage babysitter Julia (Jill Schoelen) is alone in the evening with the two sleeping toddlers of a doctor (Kevin McNulty) and his wife (Cheryl Wilson), when a stranger knocks on the front house door and asks to use the phone to get a tow. Julia wisely refuses but offers to make the call. When trying to make the call, she finds the phone is dead. Things turn tragic when she becomes aware the stranger was already in the house and snatched the kids.

It is now five years later and Julia is a college student living in an apartment off-campus, who panics when faced with a number of creepy things happening to her--like someone breaking into her apartment and moving things around. Jill Johnson (Carol Kane, played the babysitter in the first movie) is the college's student grief adviser, who has also been victimized as a babysitter when younger, and offers her services to the frightened Julia. Charles Durning also returns in the same police investigator part.

It's a decent nail-biter that plays on the tension it builds up, despite its gaps in logic. The pic is great until it falls apart when it shows the killer at work on his night job, after the halfway point. Though it recovers for a scary climax, the pic has nevertheless lost its momentum and never fully recovers.

REVIEWED ON 9/22/2015       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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