Phone calls are usually pretty harmless. If you’re unlucky it might be debt collectors or telemarketers. It might even be that “friend” who won’t leave you alone since you got stuck talking to them at a party four years ago. Yet the big screen is full of examples that would make anyone think twice before answering.
Here are five examples which you may or may not know.
The opening scene of Wes Craven’s Scream is an instant classic that most cinema goers in the late nineties remember. Brilliantly self-referential, Scream ended up being endlessly parodied itself. Watching it now, just over sixteen years later, it still has the power to scare though. Drew Barrymore had top billing and what happened when she picked up the phone came as a complete surprise to many.
Regardless of the arguments about which one is superior (it’s the Japanese original by the way), there’s no denying that The Ring was a fantastically inventive modern take on the ghost story.
It all centers around the urban legend of a cursed videotape. After watching the tape, which contains a collection of mysterious and disturbing images, the viewer receives a phone call with creepy static on the other end. Seven days later they are found dead, their faces frozen in a grimace of extreme terror. The phone call is used to maximum effect in this one. The sense of dread tangibly increases every time you hear it ring.
Bob Clark’s cult horror from 1974 is considered by many to be the precursor to the Slasher movie. Indeed, many of the techniques he employs were later used by John Carpenter in his later classic, Halloween.
The plot revolves around a group of girls living in a sorority house. One night they receive an obscene and genuinely disturbing phone call which the brash and confident leader of the group dismisses as a random pervert. People start to get bumped off soon after in a variation of a common urban legend.
The payphone is something that was already becoming a thing of the past when Phone Booth was released. It’s hard to think of another modern film since that even features one. Here Colin Farrell uses one to contact his bit on the side when things rapidly start to go bad for him. He soon ends up with a crazed sniper on the other end of the line who forces him to make life or death decisions. Apparently the basic premise, a film that takes place entirely in a phone booth was pitched to Hitchcock in the 60s. Who knows what he would have made of it?
Dial M for Murder
It would be wrong not to include a Hitchcock creation here. In this film, we see a man who plans to murder his wife in a somewhat complicated scheme involving a phone call. It’s right there in the title. The husband has arranged for an accomplice to be in the house and sneak up behind her when she answers the phone. We know this of course but Hitchcock, the master, keeps the suspense cranked up even after things inevitably don’t go to plan.
Of course in real life there’s almost always nothing to worry about. We all love to shout at the stupid characters on the screen who should have called the police or used some form of reverse phone lookup. But if you’re extra paranoid, you could just not answer the phone. That or get rid of your land line all together.
Author Byline: Mal McGinley is a film enthusiast from Northern Ireland who enjoys romantic walks on the beach, Guinness and the Wu Tang Clan. He writes for White Pages.