The Hollywood trend of remaking old franchises continues here with “When A Stranger Calls”, a remake of a 1979 educational filmstrip reminding children to not answer the phone when they’re home alone. It’s painfully obvious film executives have been digging deeper for properties after the last available television show was adapted last year (the dreadful Different Strokes 2005: Blood Fist).
The problem here is the sparse source material, with the original filmstrip clocking in at just under 5 minutes. Director Simon West was forced to pad the length with a convoluted backstory involving an inept burgler (played by Michael Moore) who devises various schemes to trick children into revealing they’re home alone, with the intention of robbing the house. If that sounds familiar to you, it should: It’s almost identical to the plot of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and it’s sequel, Terminator 3.
I’m spotty on what happens next because my mind has repressed much of it. During a scene where Moore breaks into his first victim’s house, he loses his trousers in an unlikely booby trap and spends the rest of the film naked from the waist down (I am told Moore demanded this as part of a protest against the studio). By the third act the studio’s censors had forced West to re-film most scenes using an anatomically correct puppet.
Incredibly, one scene that survived with the real Moore is a climactic chase wherein Michael Moore attempts to evade the police on a bicycle. I’m baffled by the decision to mount a camera on the handlebars facing Moore’s groin, displaying a thigh-level horror that resembles two Sumo wrestlers tossing around a bald midget. That and the uniquely horrible mixture of sounds – Moore’s thighs violently rubbing together combined with his desperate gasps for air – caused at least 13 audience members attending my screening to vomit.
If this film is somehow a success, you an expect more of the same as the original 1979 version of “When A Stranger Calls” was itself part of a 12-filmstrip series including Nuclear Attack Preparedness Is Not A Joke, The Man In The Windowless Van, and Downed Power Lines Are The Most Treacherous Friend Of All.