Picks and Pans Review: When a Stranger Calls

updated 10/15/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/15/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT

With movies like this and last year's Halloween, baby-sitters may start putting in for hazardous duty pay. So should film reviewers. For the first 15 minutes, this is a real heart-thumper. Wide-eyed Carol (Hester Street) Kane is minding the kids when the phone rings, again and again. Terror builds as someone with a deranged voice announces he is coming closer and closer. Once that scene ends, though, the tightly wound promise of the introduction unravels. Charles Durning and Colleen Dewhurst are adrift as an obsessed ex-cop and barfly who team up to trap the menacing caller seven years later. Only in a final sequence that reprises the opening does the film lurch to life for one last out-of-your-seat scare. First-time director Fred Walton and producer Steve Feke expanded their 1977 short, The Sitter, into this film. They should have left hell enough alone. (R)

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