116 user 66 critic

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

A psychopathic killer terrorizes a babysitter, then returns seven years later to menace her again.



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1 win. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Kirsten Larkin ...
William Boyett ...
Sgt. Sacker (as Bill Boyett)
Heetu ...
Joseph Reale ...
Bartender (as Joe Reale)
Ed Wright ...
Retired Man
Louise Wright ...
Retired Woman


High school student Jill Johnson is traumatized over an evening of babysitting by a caller who repeatedly asks, "Have you checked the children lately?" After notifying the police, Jill is told that the calls are coming from inside the house... Written by Betsy Bloomley <betsybloom@juno.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


...Fear is the Message! See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 October 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

'n maniak belt op...  »

Box Office


$1,500,000 (estimated)


$21,411,158 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film marked Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Donald Peterman's feature film debut as director of photography. See more »


Based on the year the film took place, 1 minute would not be nearly long enough to trace Curt's call. Back when the movie was set, it would've taken 10-20 minutes for several switchboards and circuits to locate the origin of the call. See more »


Stevie Lockart: Hi Mom!
Bianca Lockart: Hi Mommy!
Jill Johnson: Hi guys, look what the wind blew in. Play hard?
Stevie Lockart: Yeah.
Jill Johnson: Yeah? You hungry?
Stevie Lockart: Yeah.
Jill Johnson: What do you want for dinner?
Stevie Lockart: Hamburgers.
Jill Johnson: Hamburgers?
[to Bianca]
See more »


Space Race
Performed by Billy Preston
Courtesy of A&M Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Shame about the middle part.
6 August 2005 | by (Beverley Hills, England) – See all my reviews

Going into When a Stranger Calls, I was expecting something alone the same lines as Black Christmas and Halloween, due to the film's relationship with those movies. I'm not a massive fan of either of those films, but I recognise Black Christmas as an important film for the genre, and if When a Stranger Calls turned out to be as good as that; I wouldn't be disappointed. It didn't turn out to be as good, however, as despite a great opening; the film never reaches any kind of high, and on the whole; this is just another slasher. The film starts out with a babysitter looking after someone's house. It isn't long after her employers have left that she starts receiving odd anonymous calls, and it isn't long after that before she discovers that the calls are coming from inside the house! It's the classic babysitter story, and if the film had stuck to this story for it's entire running time; I would have liked it a lot more. I realise that it would have been difficult to make a feature length film with just a girl, a house and a madman upstairs...but films have been made with less.

Instead of following the babysitter story, we are presented with a story taking place seven years later. The killer has escaped from a mental hospital and is now roaming the streets, with the detective from the original case on his tail. While this film never actually becomes boring, the chase plot never gives the audience enough tension or intrigue to keep interest levels high, and if it wasn't for the smart, but abrupt, ending; it would have been hard for me to write this review without calling the film a failure. In the beginning, the film has all the elements needed for a successful horror movie in place. It's got atmosphere, suspense and a plausible plot line, which is why I cant understand why the filmmakers would ditch this for the plot that they decided the movie should take. There is very little (if any) gore in the film, as it's obvious that the director preferred the 'Halloween' approach; but this doesn't work in the film's favour as this film isn't interesting enough to not have any gory sequences. On the whole; When a Stranger Calls has a good beginning and a good end. The middle part is wholly forgettable.

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