"When a Stranger Calls" is a somewhat entertaining horror-suspense-thriller that starts off great, loses steam in the middle, then comes back for a good finish. The beginning of this movie is outstanding, with babysitter Carol Kane receiving obscene phone calls from an unknown maniac. This is far and away the best part of the film. It's scary, creepy, and downright eerie. But it doesn't sustain that level through the entire film. The mid-portion of the movie is rather dull, featuring a few lazy supporting performances. But "When a Stranger Calls" redeems itself with a nail-biting climax, even though the conclusion doesn't top the film's opening in terms of scariness. Carol Kane and Charles Durning are good in the roles of the terrified babysitter and the private detective searching for the killer when he's on the loose. "When a Stranger Calls" is not a great horror movie but a good one. And its better than the cable-made sequel that came out fourteen years later, "When a Stranger Calls Back".
*** (out of four)