Thursday, July 31, 2008

Movie Review: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Kate Lang Johnson, and Robert Englund

Director: Scott Glosserman

Writers: Scott Glosserman and David J. Stieve

Production Companies: Glen Echo Entertainment and Code Entertainment

Release Date: July 6, 2006 (Canada); October 13, 2006 (USA)

Michael Myers started in 1978, Jason Voorhees in 1981, Freddy Krueger in 1984, and Chucky in 1988. Since then, slashers have disappeared. We still see these guys from time to time, but new spectral serial killers are few and far between. Candyman made a stab at it in 1992, but he never quite had the following. Jigsaw started in 2004, sure, but his convoluted traps hardly compare to the visceral, hands-on methods of the original slashers.

But Leslie Vernon is here to continue their legacy. But unlike the others, he's willing to spill some of the trade secrets to journalist Taylor Gentry. Vernon shows Gentry how slashers pick their "survivor girls", how "red herrings" are used, and the value of "the Ahab". He shows how the planning is accomplished and in so doing, explains why so many slasher films have so many similarities...they're all working from the same bag of tricks...It's just how the elements are out together that creates the individual slasher's style.

This is a movie for the horror movie lover. It affects how you watch other slasher films. After watching Leslie Vernon, I watched another film, Storm Warning, with a family of crazed killers and I spent the whole time trying to figure out how they could have set it up, making sure their chosen victims made their way to their doom.

Nathan Baesel plays Leslie Vernon with skill and panache. The flamboyant, charming, and creepy newbie slasher couldn't have been an easy role to balance, but Baesel gets us to care for the open, straightforward killer. Well, not too straightforward, he does keep his secrets. His enthusiasm for the role he has chosen and knowledge of the symbolism of horror films makes us want to see him succeed. I mean, he's worked so hard.

Kate Lang Johnson plays Leslie's "survivor girl" Kelly Curtis. Unlike most "survivor girls", she is a fairly shallow character because the movie is not about's about Leslie, which relegates the character who would normally be on screen most of the time to a position next to most other victims. Johnson does a good job in the role, as limited as it was.

Robert Englund plays Doc Holloran, Leslie's "Ahab". Again, since the point-of-view is flipped in this film, his role as Leslie's hunter doesn't get much screen time, but it's always great seeing Englund again, even if he's not wearing the claws.

Angela Goethals takes on the morally grey role of journalist Taylor Gentry. Goethals was able to portray Gentry's wavering between her journalistic inquisitiveness and her moral unease with Leslie's activities believably.

Throw in some cameo appearances by Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina from Poltergeist and the prolific horror actor and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder who took on 4 tours-of-duty as Jason Voorshees from the Friday the 13th series, plus plenty of references to other horror films, and Behind the Mask becomes a horror aficionado's delight.

One of the things they did with Behind the Mask is switch from the handheld shots when Taylor and her camaramen are talking with Leslie and getting trade secrets to typical movie camera work when Leslie goes killing.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a horror mockumentary with humor and intrigue. I will admit that the scares aren't there, but then since we saw most everything behind the scenes, the end is more to see if and how Leslie's plans play out, plus some hidden surprises Leslie didn't let us in on.

Nathan Baesel hasn't made it back into horror, but he appears in the Sci-Fi drama Like Moles, Like Rats, also known as 20 Years Later with Azura Skye. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong: War, Terrorism, Natural Disasters. Evacuees were ushered from the cities to refugee camps in the surrounding counties. In-fighting, famine and disease took their toll on the survivors. Now, twenty years after the bombs fell and the plagues ran their course the few that remain live in fear and without hope. Azura Skye stars as Sarah in this Post-Apocalyptic Fairy Tale about a young woman's journey to deliver the first child born in 15 Years. Sarah's refusal to give up is inspired by a lone voice on her radio. Michael broadcasts dim and distant messages of hope mixed with the music he scavenges from the dead. Forced from her basement home by drought and relentlessly pursued by those who want her baby, Sarah crosses paths with Michael in a cavernous, underground refuge of disparate survivors. It is from Three Caves that Michael and Sarah will embark on a journey beyond the boundaries of the Southern Corridor and into the unknown future. The film is currently touring the film festival circuit set next to appear on Auguest 31 at Dragon Con.

Angela Goethals has only appeared in a 2007 episode of "Boston Legal" since her role as Taylor Gentry.

Robert Englund is all over the horror movie circuit appearing in several since his role as Doc Holloran. His most recent role was in Zombie Strippers! starring Jenna Jameson. It had a limited release on April 18, 2008. In the not too distant future a secret government re-animation chemo-virus gets released into conservative Sartre, Nebraska and lands in an underground strip club. As the virus begins to spread, turning the strippers into "Super Zombie Strippers" the girls struggle with whether or not to conform to the new "fad" even if it means there's no turning back. Englund's next horror movies will be Land of Canaan, A psychological thriller/horror flick based on a true story of murder and hauntings in the Nevada town of Goldfield, scheduled to come out in October, 2008, and 2001 Maniacs: Beverly Hellbillies, scheduled to come out October 30. After the sheriff refuses to cover up any further for the maniacs causing all the missing persons in the area, they're forced to hit the road in what's dubbed the "Pleasant Valley Traveling Road Show," where the maniacs head across country in hopes of gathering more victims. We'll follow a young TV crew called the "Road Rascals" as they find themselves mixed up with another one of the maniacs' deadly festivals.

Kate Lang Johnson hasn't returned to horror. Her next movie will be Fired Up, a comedy in which two guys sign up for a cheerleaders' camp in a desperate attempt to pick up girls, set for release on March 20, 2009.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Street Trash

Street Trash

Starring: Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Marc Sferrazza, Jane Arakawa, and Vic Noto

Directed by: J. Michael Muro

Written by: Roy Frumkes and J. Michael Muro

Produced by: Street Trash Joiny Venture

Release Date: September 16, 1987

Killer hooch...that's the basis of the 1987 B-Movie Street Trash. Bums...ahem...I mean the homeless...are buying $1.00 bottles of Viper and getting...liquified. Meanwhile, Fred is doing everything he can to get some cheap liquer. I mean, even among indigents, Fred leads a hard life. He's chased and beaten by homeless gang leader Bronson. He has a younger brother getting all hot for Wendy who works in the junkyard where they live. And let's not forget that a Mob boss is looking for the person who killed his girlfriend...the same girl so drunk she didn't realize she walked home with homeless Fred who had sex with her. Some with homeless Vietnam vet Bronson on one side, the Maffia on the other, plus Bill the Cop creating a third side, and the threat of turning into vibrantly colored goo if he quenches his thirst, how can Fred survive?

This movie is NOT for the choosey. Levels of incorrectness exist here that are staggering, but if you can watch it for the satire and laugh that someone would film some of this stuff, then you'll love it.

Let's this film we have insisitivity to the plight of the homeless, anti-Vietnamese sentiment, workplace sexual harrassment, gang rape, castration keep away (just think about it), police brutality, and anti-feminist sentiment ("Lady, I ain't so sure you don't have a cock.").

The effects in this melt movie are pretty good. I'll admit I don't see much difference in melt effects, so in the end, one looks as good as the other. SOme of it's pretty gross. The signature melt of the bum on the toilet was cool, and there was the toe on one melting hobo that was gag inducing.

And nudity! Maybe not a lot and certainly gratuitous, but nudity can help get attention for our beloved B-Movies. Just beware of Bronson's girlfriend. Her nude scene...even though brief...ugh. It was grosser than when she drank the Viper and melted.

A lot of people don't like this film. Many were offended. They shouldn't have rented it. Many were grossed out. That was the point. Many even claim to like B-Movies but then complained about things that make a B-Movie a B-Movie. Hell, even the fact that the plot to Street Trash is random and doesn't make much sense...well, welcome to a B-Movie script.

A recommended B-Movie...just watch at your own risk.

This was Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Marc Sferrazza, and Jane Arakawa's only film as actors.

Vic Noto last acted in a 2006 episode of "The Sopranos".

Street Trash is Muro's only directorial credit, but he's worked extensively in film as a cinematographer and cameraman. Muro is Director of Photography in the 2008 film Cirque du Freak starring Willem Dafoe, Salma Hayek, and John C. Reilly. A young boy named Darren Shan meets a mysterious man at a freak show who turns out to be a Vampire. After a series of events Darren must leave his normal life and go on the road with the Cirque Du Freak and become a Vampire. The movie is in post-production but the release date is unknown.

Roy Frumkes also wrote the movie series starring Tom Berenger, The Substitute, but has also done some acting. Most recently he was in The Deed to Hell about four different people, driven by lust, revenge, greed and self importance find an eternity of damnation.

The success story of the Street Trash crew is production assisstant Bryan Singer, director of such hits as The Usual Suspects, X-Men and X2, and Superman Returns.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bleak Future

Bleak Future

Starring: Frank Kowal, Brad Rockhold, Wendie Newcomb, Rob Cunningham, Steven A. Kowal

Directed by: Brian S. O'Malley

Written by: Brian S. O'Malley and Steven Darancette

Produced by: AnARcHy 101 Productions

Released: 1997

Ah, B-Movies...Movie viewing experiences don't get better, or worse, than the B-Movies. Exploitation, gore, and bad acting often put together with a tongue-in-cheek sensability and always on a shoe-string budget. Choosing to watch a B-Movie means accepting the limitations. The acting will be bad, but then so is Steven Segall's acting and he was making millions of dollars and these actors almost nothing. The camera work often looks cheap, but then without the budget, they don't have access to the same quality equipment. If you can accept these inherant limitations of a B-Movie, then watching a B-Movie can be a great deal of fun.

Bleak Future is a great deal of fun, but don't except high quality anything except enthusiasm on the part of those involved.

Bleak Future follows Slangman (Frank Kowol), the smartest man in the world because he has a dictionary. Slangman, through one of those random chances of fate, gets a hold of a golden disc that will give him access to all of the knowledge in the Source. But where is the Source? To find it, Slangman enlists the aid of the tongueless Atlatl (Rockhold).

Slangman also falls in love with Femme (Newcombe), a ditzy blonde actress who joins him and Atlatl on their journey. Their trek is frought with danger as mutants working for Dr. Obvious (Cunningham) are trying to track down Atlatl and retrieve the golden disc. Meanwhile, King Malice and his mutants are hunting down Slangman himself for his book!

Will Slangman, Atlatl, and Femme get to the Source before Dr. Obvious? What is the Source anyway? Is it really a resevoir of information as Slangman and Dr. Obvious believe? Or is it a source of doom as hippy hermit Brother Alfonze (Steven Kowol) believes?

Throughout the tale we learned what happened to our world. The nations of the Earth find peace and in so doing decide all of the continents should be closer together. I don't have to tell you how that turned out.

Bleak Future contains satire, witty wordplay, and Monty Python-esque humor. Slangman and King Malice in the opening scene get your attention with the wordplay making you want to pay attention to see how Slangman uses his lexicon to mislead everyone else who have never seen a book. The encounter with the Nomads and Slangman's use of a soda to get by them will remind you of King Arthur and the Knights of Ni from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And the twist ending...well, I can't spoil it for you.

The special effects are actually pretty decent. Not realistic by a long shot, but they accomplish their goal. The mutants are interesting and grotesque. There are a couple of scenes with melting mutants that are revolting.

My one complaint? Where's the skin? No nudity? In a B-Movie? I know it's not unheard of for B-Movies to not have some woman remove her top to draw viewers, but it's rare.

Many of the people involved haven't done anything else, and the ones who did other stuff didn't do much...

Brian S. O'Malley, Frank Kowol, and Steven Kowol reunite in Audie & the Wolf. In this movie written and directed by O'Malley based on a short story by Frank Kowol, Frank plays Jim the Satanist and Steven plays Bounty Hunter Alfonze. When the moon is full, a friendly WOLF turns into a savage, bloodthirsty MAN and goes on a kill spree in a starlet's Hollywood mansion. It stars Derek Hughes and Tara Price and is set to be released on August 14th at the Downtown Film Festival in Los Angeles. Audie & the Wolf MySpace

Brad Rockhold, Rob Cunningham has not worked in films, apparently, since Bleak Future.

Bleak Future was Wendie Newcomb's only acting job, but she was working visual effects through 2001.

Steven Darancette has been writing for animated series such as Krypto the Superdog and Ben 10.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, and Jennifer Carpenter

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

Written by: Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson

Production Companies: Screen Gems, Lakeshore Entertainment, and Firm Films

Let's face it, as far as horror genres go, demonic possession and exorcism movies are few and far between. But then, how much can you do with that story. Someone, typically a young girl or woman, begins experiencing strange phenomena, becomes possessed, and a priest gets called in. The ending, with how successful the exorcism is completed, is the only real variation. But The Exorcism of Emily Rose shows us that does not mean an exciting, new take on what might seem like a limited tale is still possible.

Emily Rose's very religious family is concerned when she gets into a college on a scholarship. But their concerns about the outside world turns out to not be Emily Rose's main problem as she begins having horrible nightmares. Or are they real?

After doctors proove unable to help Emily Rose's psychotic episodes, the family calls in Father Moore. Father Moore does his best to help Emily Rose and exorcise the demon who possesses her, but Emily Rose dies.

Then the movie starts...

What makes The Exorcism of Emily Rose interesting is that the movie is really more about Father Moore's trial and the experiences of lawyer Erin Bruner as she defends the priest during his trial for criminal negligence. The court drama feel of the story makes Emily Rose an intriguing horror film mixing court room drama staples such as old cases being mentioned that will eventually play a role in the film, lawyer rivalry, a law firm dictating how the case is to be handled and the lawyer doing it her own way and a strong, fair judge making both lawyers pull out all of the stops with horror elements creates a unique viewing experience.

Laura Linney, whose previous horror experience
was in 2002's The Mothman Prophecies, plays the hotshot, confident lawyer with the court win that will come back to haunt her. Her role as Erin Bruner put Linney through her paces and she handled it marvelously being able to carry every scene whether she had to be arrogant, uncertain, or downright fearful. Linney pulls off a scene looking for the souce of a burning smell that parallels an event from Emily Rose's story and does so without overstating the incident. No broad movements or words necessary...we knew what she was doing.

Her antagonist, rival lawyer Ethan Thomas, is played by Campbell Scott. Campbell Scott, like Linney, is not a common horror face, but he did appear in Top of the Food Chain, a sci-fi horror comedy from 1999 and the television movie The Tale of Sweeney Todd, the 1998 predecessor to the Johnny Depp musical. Scott does a good job in the role of Thomas, the pious, no-nonsense prosectuing attorney. He takes a character that could have been played very flat and, with subtle displays of annoyance when things aren't going his way and satisfaction when they are, creates a realistic character. A cool point occurred as Thomas cross-examined a witness when we see a scene reshot in a manner suggesting simple psychosis rather than demonic possession.

Tom Wilkinson brings to life Father Moore who is more concerned about telling Emily Rose's story than he is proving his own innocence. Wilkinson is an accomplished actor, and doesn't breaking the casting mold of bringing someone atypical to horror into the movie. Wilkinson's probably best remembered in his role as Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins, but the closest to a horror movie before Emily Rose is 1996's The Ghost and the Darkness which is really more adventure.

While Father Moore is the center of the courtroom drama, Emily Rose is the center of the horror story. Her first horror role, Jennifer Carpenter brings us Emily Rose as she goes through innocent teen to possesssed terror. The harnesses used in creating the body contortions could not have been pleasant, but this dedicated actress goes through with it bringing us more realistic shots than computer effects would. She plays her possession to chilling levels, all the more startling when remembering the innocent girl we saw at the start.

Jennifer Carpenter returns to horror on October 10, 2008 in Quarantine. Television reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman are assigned to spend the night shift with a Los Angeles Fire Station. After a routine 911 call takes them to a small apartment building, they find police officers already on the scene in response to blood curdling screams coming from one of the apartment units. They soon learn that a woman living in the building has been infected by something unknown. After a few of the residents are viciously attacked, they try to escape with the news crew in tow, only to find that the CDC has quarantined the building. Phones, internet, televisions and cell phone access have been cut-off, and officials are not relaying information to those locked inside. When the quarantine is finally lifted, the only evidence of what took place is the news crews videotape.

Laura Linney has not returned to horror films, but will be seen next in theaters nationally on December 25, 2008 in The Other Man, costarring Liam Neeson and Antonio Banderas. It is the story of a husband who suspects his wife of adultery, and sets out to track down the other man in her life.

Campbell Scott has also not returned to horror. His next cinematic appearance will be in the Canadian film One Week due out some time in 2008.

Wilkinson appears again on the Silver Screen in RocknRolla, an October 31st film directed by Guy Ritchie where a stolen painting pits some of the city's scrappiest tough guys against its more established underworld players.

Director and writer Scott Derrickson is writing the script for the 2009 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds paretnered again with Paul Harris Boardman currently set for release on July 3, 2009 and rumored to star Naomi Watts. Derrickson returns to the director's chair with the remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly to be released December 12, 2008.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Saw IV

Saw IV (2007)

Starring: Tobin Bell, Scott Patterson, Lyriq Bent, Athena Karkanis, and Betsy Russell

Written by: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Thomas H. Fenton

Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman

Produced by: Lionsgate Films and Twisted Pictures

The Saw series has been a nice surprise. The original was an amazing creation of psychological terror. The second was not as good taking one victim in an elaborate test to several people in an elaborate test. The larger group provided about as many interesting moments as annoying ones, but the traps were interesting and the twist was welcome and overall, the second installment was good. Saw III was decent, but quality was continuing to slide as they were trying to come up with something different.

Which gets us to Saw IV. Jigsaw, despite being dead, continues to play his games and teach his lessons with a tape and the revelation that, while Jigsaw and accomplice Amanda are dead, there has to be another accomplice.

Officer Rigg finds himself the focus of Jigsaw's last test having 90 minutes to decipher clues and help people caught in their own traps. The final goal, rescue police officer Hoffman.

Meanwhile, FBI agents Perez and Strahm are following behind trying to catch up to Rigg and stop the carnage. This involves speaking with Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill where we learn more about how John Kramer became Jigsaw.

Rigg's story doesn't hold up too well. Running to the next scene, even a hotheaded cop who tends to run through unsecure doors would call in and get back-up. The traps/tests that the victims were in that Rigg was supposed to rescue them from were too dependent upon "cooperation" for Jigsaw to be certain everything would play out the way he intended. The woman in the hair trap could easily have decided not to try and kill Rigg. But then, I'm not sure what she was guilty of doing. We weren't given a good enough look at the photos.

And Rigg doesn't make much sense. He wants to save the hair trap girl, he forces the next guy into his trap to make him decide his own fate, and then tries to save one of the next victims. This ocillation is hard to reconcile. I'll admit that the idea of forcing Rigg to see what Jigsaw sees, feel what he feels, judge how he judges is an interesting goal, but too contrived here.

The interview with Jill, Jigsaw's ex-wife, doesn't add anything to the plot. Yes, it is interesting see specifically what happened that led John Kramer to become Jigsaw and seeing his first trap/test fall apart was intriguing, but it didn't provide any revelations pertinent to the Rigg story, which means it was just filler.

The end, with the twist revelation about who the third member of the Jigsaw trinity is, doesn't hold water. We are given no reason for this third person to work with Jigsaw.

The traps seemed less about teaching the victims to value their lives and more about forcing Rigg to make decisions which led to their murder. In fact, if Rigg was supposed to learn the lesson to not going running through doors half-cocked, then Jigsaw should have been warning him to take his time, not chastising him for wasting time. And a couple of victims are completely random with boobytraps designs to take out whoever happened to be in the right place at the wrong time.

Poorly pieced together plot. Unclear motivations. Overall, a blunted entry into the Saw saga.

Tobin Bell, Jigsaw, has two horror related movies due out in 2008. One is called Highway 61, a horror comedy about the manager of a struggling rock group arranging a meeting with the Devil at the fabled Crossroads intersection in Mississippi. Look for Bell as Jigsaw again in Saw V due out on October 24, 2008.

Also look for Scott Patterson, Agent Strahm, to appear in Saw V.

Lyriq Bent, Rigg, seems to be working in television mostly and does not have any films in the works.

Athena Karkanis's next film will be an action thriller with Wesley Snipes. The Art of War: The Betrayal is the sequel to the 2000 The Art of War and deals with Agent Neil Shaw being called out of retirement and finding himself in the midst of a plot to assassinate several leading Senators with himself set-up to take the rap for a recent killing.

Betsy Russell, Jill, will also appear in Saw V. She also appears in Chain Letter, a horror movie set to come out at an unspecified date in 2008 where a maniac murders teens when they refuse to forward chain mail. Chain Letter also stars Brad Ourif from Rob Zombie's Halloween and the voice of Chucky from the Child's Play series, and Michael Bailey Smith from The Hills Have Eyes and The Hills Have Eyes II (2006-2007).

Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan continue writing horror with The Midnight Man, currently filming and scheduled for release in 2008. In The Midnight Man, an ex-con, desperate to repay his debt to his ex-wife, plots a heist at his new employer's country home, unaware that a second criminal has also targeted the property, and rigged it with a series of deadly traps. Dunstan is set to make his directorial debute with The Midnight Man. Dunstan and Melton also are writers on the 2009 remake of Hellraiser.

Darren Lynn Bousman returns to the director's chain with Repo! The Genetic Opera, a horror musical in which a worldwide epidemic encourages a biotech company to launch an organ-financing program similar in nature to a standard car loan. The repossession clause is a killer, however. Repo! The Genetic Opera stars Paul Sorvino, Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley from Rob Zombie's Halloween, and Anthony Head who appeared briefly in Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Repo! is going to be shown in Canada at the Fantasia Film Festival on July 18 and will have a US theater release date of November 2008.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

When a Stranger Calls (2006)

When a Stranger Calls (2006)

Starring: Camilla Belle, Lance Henriksen, and Tommy Flanagan

Written by: Jake Wade Wall (Based on 1979 Screenplay by Steve Feke and Fred Walton)

Directed by: Simon West

Production Companies: Screen Gems and Davis Entertainment

Let's face it Horror Movie Night Orgy Revelers, horror movie remakes rarely hold up. But like a masochist, we watch the remakes thinking maybe, just maybe, they original fear can be recreated and even accentuated with modern movie making technologies and a keen eye for fixing errors in the original. Then we find the remake to be actually muted. Not as likely to push the envelope. Not as likely to scare.

But I have to give actress Camilla Belle, writer Jake Wade Wall, and director Simon West their due. I was thoroughly impressed with the tension they created. Wall's story brings the classic urban legend of the killer calling the babysitter from inside the house into the 21st century without muddling it up like I was afraid would happen. I mean, let's face it, When a Stranger Texts just wouldn't have the same effect.

Jill Johnson (Belle) is being driven by her father (Clark Gregg) to the house where she is being forced to babysit rather than attend a party with her friends. Why? She went over her minutes on her cell phone.

At the Mandrakis house, Jill is shown around the sprawling home sprinkled with red herrings perfect to take the first 20 minutes of the original film into an 87 minute full length feature. We have a guest house where the Mandrakis's son sometimes stays, but he never tells them when he's going to show up. We have the maid who stays upstairs and still hasn't learned how to use the home alarm system.

Even though we know there's a stranger in the house, they make it believable that poor Jill hasn't panicked with phone calls from friends, including a prank phone call, and friends popping by unannounced, and motion activated lights that the cat can trigger.

An interesting point to this version of the story is what it leaves out. The original legend was about a teen being irresponsible and not checking on the children she is babysitting, choosing instead to stay glued to the television. It was a cautionary tale about responsibility. However, in this 2006 remake, Jill is not irresponsible. She didn't go over her minutes calling people. Her ex-boyfriend kept calling her forcing her over her minutes. She doesn't stay away from the children's room because she's watching television. In fact, she can't get the TV to work. The Mandrakises told her to leave them asleep in their room because they are recovering from illness.

If there's a caution in this horror tale, it's about choosing ones friends. After all, it was the ex-boyfriend that went over the cell phone minutes. It was the friend who kissed the boyfriend that lead to the break-up and the repeated calling which went over Jill's minutes which led to being forced to babysit. With friends like that, who needs homicidal maniacs?

Speaking of homicidal maniacs...Lance Henriksen and Tommy Flanagan team up to bring us this madman. Henriksen, best known as Bishop from Aliens, gives us the voice that chills us when he asks, "Have you checked the children?" Tommy Flanagan, also a part of the Alien series appearing in Alien vs. Predator, is the shadowy body that makes us jump. Henriksen, though, deserves top billing as the phone calls are always scarier than when the killer surfaces in the flesh.

Another oddity which helps this film is the police officer, Officer Burroughs (David Denman), actually takes Jill's complaint of harassing phone calls seriously rather than just blowing her off as is typical in slasher flicks.

Camilla Belle does a reasonable job in her role as Jill Johnson. I can't say she does anything phenomenal with the role, but plays the part well enough. A murderer's intended victim can be a difficult role to pull off and I think with a few more parts like this, Camilla could probably become an accomplished scream queen.

The one thing missing was skin. A good slasher flick should have nudity. But I'll be honest, in this case, with this well thought out, fairly realistic approach to this urban legend, a gratuitous breast shot would probably cheapen the film. But I promise you this will be one of the few times I say it's ok to not see some nipples.

Camilla Belle doesn't seem to have any horror films on the horizon, but she'll be in a sci-fi thriller called Push about "a group of young American ex-pats with telekinetic and clairvoyant abilities, hiding from a clandestine U.S. government agency. They must utilize their different talents and band together for a final job enabling them to escape the agency forever." That film is set for 2009.

While Lance Henriksen has appeared in several horror films since When a Stranger Calls came out, his next new release will be The Lost Tribe about a group of friends stranded on an uncharted island where they encounter an ancient tribe of humanoid creatures. That film will come out September or October of this year.

Tommy Flanagan seems to specialize on police dramas, but he may be returning to this genre in The Blackening a UK thriller set to come out this year. I have been unable to find any details about this project.

Jake Wade Wall followed up writing this screenplay with 2007's The Hitcher which is on my list of movies to watch and I'll get to at an unspecified future date. His next new release will be Amusement scheduled for release in November of this year. Starring Katheryn Winnick, Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield), and Laura Breckenridge, three women are stalked by a killer with a grudge that extends back to the girls' childhoods.

Simon West hasn't returned to horror films. His next directorial new release will be Let it Ride a 2009 thriller about a blackmailer and con man set to come out in 2009.