When a Stranger Calls is the 1979 horror/mystery cult classic from director Fred Walton and writer Steve Feke arriving here on Blu-ray in a brand-new scan and restoration from Second Sight Films.
The film is most notable for its opening act, which finds babysitter Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) suddenly being terrorized by a mysterious caller who keeps asking “have you checked on the children?” Some may be able to guess the terrifying fate that awaits, but this sequence of events is bone chilling in its use of now classic horror tropes. The use of cameras angles, shadows and judicious jump scares will have you on the edge of your seat.
The film then shifts to seven years later, Jill is now married with children of her own and the maniac who terrorized her has escaped from a mental institution to terrorize her again. A private investigator (Charles Durning) is hot on his trail, but can he get to him in time? And, most importantly, will anyone, including the reluctant police department even believe Jill when she tells them that history is repeating itself?
The film is not without its flaws. The second act of the film feels strangely juxtaposed with the film’s creepy opening act. The shift in tone never quite works, and the pace is lumbering in this section at best, but it does eventually pay off with a shocking if not wholly surprising twist ending.
In 1993, a direct-to-video sequel, When a Stranger Calls Back, was produced which basically mirrored the story of the original film with a few minor changes and updates. Carol Kane and Charles Durning also reprised their roles from the original film. That film is also included on this release in a sparkling new scan and restoration in HD.
The film arrives on Blu-ray with what Second Sight lists as a “brand new scan and restoration” in an AVC 1080p encodement framed at 1.85:1. The image looks beautiful. It’s a grainy film, originally shot on Panaflex cameras and lenses by Panavision with 35mm film stock. The low-light photography looks a little gritty, but the grain looks very natural and crisp here and the image looks clean without being heavily DNR’d. Colors are natural and have that sort of late 1970s horror look.
When a Stranger Calls hits Blu-ray from Second Sight with its original monaural mix in LPCM 1.0. The sound design of the film is excellent for the time and given the 1.0 mix. Dialogue is clear as are the sound effects. The included sequel comes with a LPCM 2.0 stereo mix that has a reasonable amount of stereo imagery and dynamic range, and clear dialogue.
This special edition arrives with a great set of special features that include lots if interviews with the cast and director, plus two welcome inclusions miraculously squeezed onto this one disc in high quality – the original short The Sitter, upon which the film was based and the 1993 made-for-TV sequel, When a Stranger Calls Back, also in a new scan and restoration that looks great.
- Also includes the 1993 sequel When a Stranger Calls Back (1.33:1; 1080p)
- The Sitter (1.33:1; AVC 1080p) – The original, rarely seen short film upon which the feature film was based in a brand-new scan and restoration
- Directing A Stranger: An Interview with Director Fred Walton (1.78:1; 1080p)
- Carol Kane on When a Stranger Calls (1.78:1; 1080p)
- Rutanya Alda on When a Stranger Calls (1.78:1; 1080p)
- Scoring A Stranger: An Interview with Composer Dana Kaproff (1.78:1; 1080p)
- Reversible sleeve with new artwork by Obviously Creative and original artwork
The Final Assessment
An at times chilling and atmospheric horror/ thriller that has some flaws but is still good overall, When a Stranger Calls is a worthy film to watch for horror fans. This new restoration looks brilliant on Blu-ray from Second Sight Films.
When a Stranger Calls/When a Stranger Calls Back [Special Edition] is out on Blu-ray in the UK July 1, 2019 from Second Sight Films
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