When a Stranger Calls Back (1993) [Blu-Ray]

Fred Walton returns for what is such a ridiculous sequel to an already abysmal thriller that I’m stunned there was any demand for it. Walton already spent ninety minutes stretching a five minute campfire tale in to a full fledged crime thriller, but this TV movie sequel watches like a ludicrous episode of a mediocre crime series. This is a premise so absurd and void of real tension or suspense. It seems like the writers spent so much time looking for a concept to resuscitate this concept and they fail with a tedious piece of genre claptrap.

After babysitter Julia barely makes it out alive after being terrorized by a killer while caring for two children, she is convinced that years after moving to New York, that he is back and hell bent on killing her. Authorities enlist the help of Jill Johnson, the former babysitter killer survivor, who helps Julia get a hold of her life. But as events spiral out of control and Julia begins to question her own sanity, and former detective John Clifford arrives to help put a stop to the terror this killer is wreaking on both women.

This is an absolutely ridiculous sequel with the TV movie trappings that keep it from fully and completely providing an edge to this follow up. If you think the original film padded its run time, the sequel makes a practice of it, providing endlessly droning moments that amount to nothing, and giving us a maniac who is a maniac just because. The opening twenty minutes go on and on and on without much of an interesting execution, and the writers deliver so many details to the audience without following through. Why did the maniac kidnap the children? Where are they? Why was he insistent on convincing Julia (and then Jill) that she was going insane? Did he intend to kill her? Why is this maniac?

Why is he terrorizing women? Why is he a ventriloquist? Why does he have a fascination with Julia? Why call in Jill beyond mere cheap fan service? There are so many questions raised and nothing is ever resolved because the writers simply have to move the narrative forward. There’s just no tension or sense of inherent terror, and Julia is barely given enough screen time to make her a compelling heroine, because the movie almost immediately flips its perspective to Carol Kane’s heroine Jill, once more. It feels like the producers were aiming for a series of movies (or maybe an actual TV series?) based around Jill and John solving crimes, and it’s no wonder nothing ever developed. “Calls Back” is just so absurd, dull, and droningly tedious, and it wastes talent like Charles Durning and Carol Kane.

The new packed Blu-Ray from Shout! comes with the thirteen minutes Directing a Stranger, a conversation with helmer Fred Walton, who tracks his initial inspiration for a “When a Stranger Calls” sequel, turning down the professional opportunity after the film’s successful release, and the genesis of its airing on Showtime. The Process is Everything is an eight minute chat with Carol Kane, who analyzes Jill’s evolution between installments of “When a Stranger Calls,” digging into the psychology of the role and the empowerment angle of the sequel, as well as its life on the Showtime movie channel.

A Stranger’s Prey is a thirteen minutes catch up with star Jill Schoelen, who walks through her career in horror. She recalls time spent with Walton and his way of doing business, and details relationships with co-stars, making a special connection with Durning during their lone scene together. It’s a very good interview. Included is The Sitter, the twenty one minutes 1977 short film from director Walton, which he used as the inspiration for “When a Stranger Calls.” Finally there’s an original TV Spot in SD.