Telephones sure have come a long way. Watching most of these films, it's funny to see how low tech this technology really was 30 years ago. No caller ID, no answering machines, and no last number called. What a perfect device to include in a horror story! Menacing calls from the unknown and people not knowing who was lurking on the line. Untraceable tormentors that could keep their victims hanging on, until the right moment to pounce! Add in a super natural element or a scientific anomaly and you have the making of not only a great film but an urban legend as well.
So with that in mind, here are 5 Killer Phone Movies:
5. 976-Evil (1988) - Spike returns to his Aunt's home after a terrible night of card playing. He lost the pink slip to his motorcycle and needs to find some cash to cover it or he loses it forever. While going through his pockets, he finds a 976-EVIL Horroscope flyer and for a hoot, gives it a call. The evil voice says something menacing and he just laughs it off. So he goes down to his Aunt's kitchen and takes money that is hidden away. His Aunt catches him and we learn that Spike is an orphan and that he has a fund put away for him by his deceased parents, but his evil Aunt uses the money to take care of him and his cousin Hoax. Hoax shows up and he is a wimpy nerdy kid. They all go outside and it rains fish. Aunt Lucy is big into God, so she thinks this is a positive sign. The next day, Spike goes to the bathroom at high school to pay the money he owes. There he finds Hoax being bullied, so after paying the leader Marcus the money he owed, he saves Hoax, by beating Marcus and his gang up. In another part of the movie, a reporter, Marty from a bible magazine visits the Aunt to write a story about the raining fish. Tired of being bullied, Hoax finds the 976-EVIL flyer and it (eventually) offers him power to stop being such a wuss but it ends up the demon just possesses him at starts killing his enemies. After a few dead bodies show up, Spike and Marty, who somehow meet, have to find way to stop the demon who has taken over Hoax! Robert England directs this mess, which is a real shame. The first 30 - 40 minutes are confusing, but when Hoax, played by Stephen Geoffreys (Firght Night), finally becomes possessed then the story starts to go somewhere. Geoffreys is excellent as the nerdy wimpy kid and you really feel for the character. There are obvious green screen scenes and it's just so badly put together that it really more painful to watch than fun. There are some good kill scenes but with the confusion and what not, I'd try and miss this call.
4. Murder by Phone (aka Bells) (1982) - A girl on the subway platform answers a public phone and it kills her with a electrical shock. The police call it a heart attack, but the father asks her former teacher and electrical expert, Nat Bridger to look into it, when he goes into town for the conference. While there Nat Bridger goes to the police but Lt. Meara says that case is closed, it was a heart attack and the phone company won't let Nat Bridger look at the confidential files to find the truth. Damn you phone company! Meanwhile, a series of electrical exploding phones have been killing people in the phone company and other random people. Nat Bridger must piece this together with help from, Ridley Taylor or RT, an artist he just met, who also works for the phone company as a muralist and his best friend, Stanely Markowitz, who is the environmental liaison for the phone company. They all must discover what the phone company is trying to cover up and stop the phone killer once and for all! This Canadian horror film was surprisingly enjoyable to watch. The phone calls create some excellent bloody scenes and are very impressive. Richard Chamberlain doesn't phone it in, when playing Nat Bridger and does a good job. Recognizable talent from Canada are in this and you even see a young Luba Goy. The story is well done and can be really creepy at times. Good movie and worth watching.
3. When A Stranger Calls (1979) - Jill Johnson is going to babysit for the Mandrakis's for the first time. She is greeted by the family and already she is in trouble because she can't pronounce their last name. "Lol, that's okay" says Mr. Mandrakis and lets her know the kids are sleeping up stairs. They head out and now Jill sits on the couch and waits for them to come home. While Jill is doing her homework, the phone rings and when she answers, the person hangs up. This happens a few times, then the caller asks if she has checked on the children? Jill is now creeped out and calls the police, they tell her not to worry about it, happens all the time. Blow a whistle in his receiver and they'll never call again, so Jill hangs up and turns out the light. The phone calls persist and she calls the police again, they tell her to keep the creep on the line and they'll trace the call. Luckily, the next call, the guy feels more chatty and they talk until Jill mentions that she has talked to the police and the guy hangs up. The phone rings and it's the police, they utter one of the best lines in horror movie history, "The call is coming from inside the house". Jill panics, sees a door open upstairs and she bolts to the front door, where Detective John Clifford as arrived with his squad. Ends up that Jill not only can't pronounce people's last names but she can't hear when homicidal maniacs sneak into the house and viciously murder children either. The police take killer, Curt Duncan and lock him up in a mental ward. However, 7 years later, Curt Duncan escapes and the Mr. Mandrakis hires former Detective John Clifford to find him! Clifford searches the shelters and seedy bars to find Duncan but eventually it leads him back to Jill Johnson, terrible babysitter and now excellent mom. Clifford must stop Duncan before he ruins her life... again! Carol Kane, who plays Jill Johnson, is fantastic in this and I wish they used more of her in it. She's in the beginning and she's tack on at the end as well. It's a terrific movie but the middle part where Charles Durning, playing the John Clifford role, searches for the Curt Duncan character, drags on and on and on. There is a very low body count in the film and turns into more of a thriller rather than a horror film, with Charles Durning chasing (literally) the escape mental patient. It's worth a watch, just for Carol Kane and to here the line. It'll send chills down your spine.
2. Chakushin Ari (aka One Missed Call) (2003) - Nakamura Yumi & Okazaki Yoko are out for dinner when Okazaki Yoko gets a mysterious call on her cell phone from her own cell phone! They listen to the message, which is dated for two days in the future and it's Yoko talking, then screaming in terror. They laugh it off and think someone is playing a prank on them. Unfortunately 2 days later, Yumi is talking to Yoko on her cell phone and Yoko is thrown in front of a speeding train and dies. Yumi is totally freaked out and tries to talk to her friend, Kenji but he gets a call too! It's dated for the next couple minutes, they listen to the message and he thinks it a prank too. That is until he gets sucked down an elevator shaft and dies. People are now freaking, Yumi's new best friend, Natsumi gets the next call and to try to stop whatever will happen, they cancel their phone subscritions and throw away their phones. The local news wants Natsumito to have an live exorcism and to be safe, she agrees. Yumi meets Yamashita, who's sister died from a similar fate and wants to stop the evil force that is killing everybody. Yumi and Yamashita team up to find out what the problem is with this ghost before it kills Natsunito and everyone else on it's phone list! This is the tamest Takashi Miike film, I ever seen. The gore level has been turned down and there are no sick twists in the film that I've come to expect. With that said, this movie is still a fantastic ghost story that will scare the shit out of you. I jumped a few times and I hardly jump any more at movies. I like the way the ghosts look in this movie too and it's not that stop/start stuff from Ringu, which is very popular these days with the kids. Good use of using the new technology and integrating with old Japanese ghost characters. The ending was weird but what do you expect? Great Film, a definite must see!
1. Scream (1996) - Sidney Prescott goes to school and learns that her two classmates, Casey and Steve have been murder! Still coming to terms with her own mother's rape and murder, from last year, Sidney decides to go home and asks her friend Tatum to call her. While at home, she gets a disturbing phone call from the killer and is attacked in her home. She barricades the door, uses her computer to contact the police, but the killer has left and her undersexed boyfriend, Billy shows up at the same time and drops his cellular phone. The police arrest Billy and he pleads with Sidney that it wasn't him. That night, Sidney stays at Tatum's house because Sidney's dad is away and she gets a call from the killer! Billy's in jail, who could it be? The next day, they go to school and people are scaring each other with the costume of the killer. The principal has had it and sends everyone home until further notice and the police put a curfew into effect. Tatum's boyfriend, Stu thinks this is the best time to have a party, so he throws one that night at his parents house. Everyone goes to the party and that's when the killer starts knocking them off like flies. Sidney needs to escape and try to save as many friends as she can, for the sequel! This film is what rebooted Wes Craven's career and may have revived the horror genre from it's withering demise. Kevin Williamson's brilliant script not only told a very complex horror story but broke down the 4th wall. Allowing audiences in and discussing the tricks of horror movies that we had all become accustomed too. Fantastic casting, bringing in a bevy of young talent and even killing off a star, Drew Barrymore, right at the top of the film. Also, working in new technology, like home computers, cellular phones was very interesting to see at that time. Great references, smart writing and good killing. The first Scream is still as enjoyable to watch and one of the Wes Cravens best.
So next time you answer your phone, make sure you take a look to see who's calling because you don't want to end up as a dead tone.