That messed me up as a kid!

Everyone has that one VHS rental that fucked them up as a kid, made them sleep with the light on or wake their folks up in the middle of the night.

Mine was When A Stranger Calls from 1979.By the time I watched it, it was an urban legend type horror film that people always referred to in my company. In 1992 I was, like, 11, and told everyone I was this bad ass who wasn’t scared of horror movies. I was the weird kid with the Freddy Krueger poster on his wall, who wrote scary stories… there was no way this film was going to scare me, right?


So one night my Aunt called my bluff. I was sleeping over at her house and she dug this out of her collection (she was a horror freak too) and the lights went out and the film came on…

If you think you don’t know this movie, you’re wrong. We’ve all heard the story.

(SPOILER) Babysitter in a lonely big house, phone-calls from a weirdo asking ‘Have you checked the children?’ and the twist is, he’s upstairs calling from inside the house. The kids are dead. The opening of this movie is so damn scary it makes my skin crawl right now writing about it. There’s nothing in this movie you haven’t seen before or since, but the atmosphere is so… old. Creaky. VHS. It almost embodies that time when you had to fix the tracking to see what was actually lurking in the shadows. Carol Kane (Rocky Horror) plays Jill the babysitter. Her quirky, vulnerable, fragile performance sucks you right in. Sure she does all the wrong things. But you can’t help but love her and hope to God she DOESN’T CHECK THE CHILDREN.

(she does)


From the opening, it goes off on a tangent where we’re actually following the killer. Released from his mental institution considered fully rehabilitated, he tries to strike up a friendship with a whiskey-swilling, grizzled but fabulous middle-aged loner played by Colleen Dewhurst. Suffice to say… it doesn’t end well.


To this day it scares me to think back to it. The opening 20 minutes especially, but then other moments like the killer hiding in the closet, his flashbacks to being in a padded room with those maniacal staring eyes, and then the ending where he’s actually in bed next to the heroine all along. I’ve since bought it on Blu Ray but STILL haven’t watched it…


So we’ve all got that movie that we’re still daring ourselves to watch again as adults. Will they still scare the shit out of us? Or will we watch it and go ‘Uh, what was I so scared of, this is shit?’ Is it better to leave it a fuzzy, grainy, chilling memory? So that’s mine… what’s yours? Tweet me and tell me. @jonnylarkin


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