Noted director Simon West (‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,’ ‘The Mechanic’) delivers a gripping, taut, and ambient tale of horror in the 2006 home invasion movie ‘When A Stranger Calls.’ The story follows teenager Jill Johnson, who is compelled to babysit for the affluent Mandrakis family. On a night obscured by rain, Jill takes her time to explore the vast bungalow. However, soon after the owners of the house leave, Jill is threatened by a strange and obscene caller.
Unbeknownst to Jill, the mysterious stranger comes with a specific penchant for bloodshed, and before we know it, the state-of-the-art house turns into a site of an unfolding cat-and-mouse chase. Camilla Belle plays the central role with excellent command, and the camerawork lends to creating a gloomy ambiance. Although the critics, unfortunately, panned the movie, it still proved to be a moderate success in the box offices compared to its meager budget. However, let us run a thorough investigation if you seek to know whether the story is ripped from the newspaper headlines.
Is When A Stranger Calls Based on A True Story?
No, ‘When A Stranger Calls’ is not based on a true story. However, it is inspired by an urban legend that seems to have its roots in real life. Although the specific characters and the story may well be fictional, the core urban legend involving “the babysitter and the stranger” may have some truth. Simon West directed the movie from a screenplay penned by Jake Wade Wall. Wall based the story on Fred Walton’s cult classic 1979 horror movie of the same name, which in turn was based on the short film ‘The Sitter.’ Thus, the 2006 film can be deemed as a loose remake of the original (1979) one.
Fred Walton teamed up with Steve Feke to write the screenplay for the original movie, and they were inspired by the popular urban legend of “the babysitter and the man upstairs,” which dates back to the 1960s. Further down the rabbit hole, we come to know that the tale is based on a true-crime incident that took place on March 18, 1950. 13-year-old Janett Christman was babysitting toddler Gregory Romack at the latter’s residence in Columbia, Missouri.
Christman put the baby in his bed, and the owners of the house were yet to return. Around this time, a stranger broke in through the window and attacked Christman in the living room. Past ten at night that day, officer McCowan recollected receiving a phone call from the residence, with the person on the other side of the phone horrified and screaming. The Romacks returned to the house to find the back and front doors open and a window shattered. They discovered Christman in a pool of blood by the grand piano.
The autopsy revealed that Christman was raped, strangled, and had a blunt trauma on her head. Upon investigating, the police realized that Christman probably opened the door for someone she knew, letting the killer sneak in. The principal suspect, Robert Mueller, a friend of the Romacks who was familiar with Christman and made reportedly advances at her, was not indicted due to the lack of evidence.
The crime remains unresolved to date, but it has made its scarring mark in the popular imagination and has formed the crux of many home invasion movies. Evan Rachel Wood turned down the lead role, and Camilla Belle was reportedly dubious about doing a horror movie. But Simon West divulged to Belle the classic status of the original film, which had the famed actress of ‘The Ballad of Jack and Rose’ hooked. Therefore, you may think of the film as a routine take on an urban folk tale, but its realistic grounding colors the film with another layer of intrigue.