scream 1996 horror movie phone calls
Dimension Films

Don’t Call Me, Maybe: Dialing In on the Scariest Horror Movie Phone Calls

RRRRing, rrring!

Ah, the sound of an innocent phone call… until it becomes the harbinger of unspeakable terror. Horror films have a way of turning the mundane into the macabre, and one particularly bone-chilling element they’ve mastered is the art of horror movie phone calls. In this hair-raising piece, we’ll dial back through time and explore how iconic films like Scream, When a Stranger Calls, and Black Christmas have transformed this everyday device into a terrifying plot device.

So, turn your cell on airplane mode — and let’s dive into the chilling world of horror movie phone calls!

 



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black christmas 1974 horror movie phone calls
Warner Bros.

 

The Christmas Caroler

In the golden age of horror, the telephone was merely a tool for communication. But then came Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974), a pioneering slasher film that dialed up the fear factor. As the mysterious killer tormented the sorority house with menacing phone calls, the mundane act of answering the phone turned into a heart-stopping game of cat and mouse. Black Christmas set the stage for future horror films to exploit the unsuspecting nature of phone conversations. The phone became a conduit for terror, its ring a haunting melody that signaled impending doom. Just when you thought it was safe to pick up the receiver, Black Christmas proved that evil could be lurking on the other end.

 

when a stranger calls 1979
Columbia Pictures

 

Dial Tone of Dread

Fast forward to 1979, and When a Stranger Calls hit the silver screen, forever etching the phrase “Have you checked the children?” into our collective nightmares. This suspense-filled film took the horror phone call to new heights, capitalizing on the fear of the unknown and the vulnerability of being alone. As Carol Kane’s character, Jill Johnson, innocently answers the phone, little does she know that her life is about to descend into a chilling game of hide-and-seek. The anonymous caller becomes a tormentor, toying with Jill’s sanity as the tension mounts with each whispered word. When a Stranger Calls taught us that behind every innocent ring, a lurking threat could be waiting. And horror movie phone calls were just getting started…

 

 

scream 1996 drew barrymore horror movie phone calls 2
Dimension Films

 

A Killer Connection

Enter the ’90s, a decade that breathed new life into the horror genre. Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) was a clever and self-aware love letter to the slasher films that came before it. The film’s opening scene, featuring Drew Barrymore, delivered an electrifying jolt to audiences. The ringing phone, the mysterious caller (voiced by Roger L. Jackson), and the relentless pursuit of terror over the phone lines captured the essence of the horror phone call while simultaneously dissecting its conventions. Scream not only revitalized the genre but also paid homage to its predecessors.

In 1997, David Lynch’s Lost Highway shocked audiences with its enigmatic and surreal narrative. While not entirely centered around horror, the film contained a terrifying scene involving a mysterious man and a phone call. The protagonist, Fred Madison, meets a mystery man at a party who claims to be in his house, at that very moment. Fred calls his house, and the mystery man impossibly picks up, though he is still standing before him. The scene blurs the lines between reality and nightmare, leaving viewers unnerved and questioning the nature of the call, and reality itself. Lost Highway demonstrated how a single phone call could disrupt the fabric of one’s reality, showcasing the power of the horror phone call even within a broader cinematic context.

 

the ring 2002
DreamWorks

 

Leave a Message After the Shriek

During the 2000s, horror cinema embraced the concept of cursed media and supernatural phone calls. One notable film that epitomized this trend was j-horror remake The Ring (2002), directed by Gore Verbinski. The story revolves around a videotape that curses anyone who watches it, resulting in a phone call foretelling the viewer’s death exactly seven days later. The phone call becomes a horrifying countdown to an inevitable fate, and the film’s eerie atmosphere and disturbing imagery left audiences on the edge of their seats. The Ring took horror movie phone calls to a new level, combining technology, folklore, and psychological terror into a spine-chilling experience.

 

Pulse (2006)
Dimension Films

 

Dead Ringers

With the rise of mobile phones and the digital age, horror filmmakers had a whole new playground for their wicked imaginations. Films like One Missed Call (2003) and Pulse (2006) exploited the fears associated with modern technology, turning our most trusted communication devices into conduits for supernatural horror. Suddenly, the convenience of being reachable anywhere, anytime transformed into a sinister invitation for malevolent forces to enter our lives. These films tapped into society’s growing dependence on technology and explored the inherent dangers that lurk within our seemingly innocuous devices.

 

don't breathe movie 2016
Screen Gems

 

Can You Fear Me Now?

As horror cinema continues to evolve, so does the horror phone call. Recent films like The Call (2013), Don’t Breathe (2016), and The Black Phone (2021) have tapped into our dependence on mobile phones and explored the terrifying consequences. In The Call, Halle Berry plays an emergency operator who receives a chilling call from a teenager trapped in the clutches of a sadistic killer. Meanwhile, in Don’t Breathe, a group of thieves finds themselves trapped inside a blind man’s house, where the tension rises when a cellphone buzzes at an inopportune moment.

The Black Phone (2021), based on a short story by Joe Hill, takes the horror phone call to supernatural realms. Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, is held captive in a soundproof basement by a sadistic, masked killer. In a stroke of eerie coincidence, a disconnected phone on the wall starts to ring, and Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the murderer’s previous victims. The Black Phone delves into the otherworldly dimension of communication, as the deceased victims use their connection to aid Finney in his fight for survival.

These films remind us that even in the era of advanced technology, the horror phone call can still strike fear into our hearts. They explore the boundaries of communication and the supernatural, blurring the lines between the living and the dead. The horror movie phone call becomes a conduit for both terror and salvation, as characters navigate the dangerous landscapes of isolation, captivity, and the relentless pursuit of evil.

 

Universal

 

From the early days of Black Christmas to the technologically charged nightmares of today, horror phone calls have become an integral part of the genre’s DNA. These eerie conversations, laced with suspense and fear, have left an indelible mark on audiences, reminding us that even the most innocuous of actions can have sinister consequences. So, the next time your phone rings, brace yourself—because you never know who or what might be on the other end of the line. Are you brave enough to answer the call?

What horror movie phone calls have gotten under your skin? Tweet at us or start a conversation in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Everyone’s welcome!

 

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