There is something inherently spine-chilling about the shrill ring of the telephone at an odd hour. Some part of you knows it’s likely nothing. But there’s always a possibility, however slim, of life-altering bad news, or worse, some inexplicable darkness residing at the other end of the line. Horror films have been capitalising on this fear of the unknown for decades.
Wes Craven’s 1996 cult classic Scream begins with an ominous phone call. But more recently, a different spin on phone call horror is taking cinemas around the world by storm. Scott Derrickson’s The Black Phone is gripping, and unsettling to its core. Ethan Hawke delivers an unnerving performance as a masked serial killer called ‘The Grabber’. Locked in his basement, 13-year-old Finney (Mason Thames) discovers a phone on the wall, through which he can speak to The Grabber’s dead victims.
Luckily for Finney, the voices on the other end seem to be well-wishers helping him plot a brave escape. But more often than not, it is quite the opposite. These five films will make you want to disconnect your phone and live in isolation.
This Korean supernatural thriller starring Park Shin-hye is a mind-boggler from start to finish. A phone call connects two young women who live in the same house – but twenty years apart. Seo-yeon wants to help change Young-sook’s fate, but the latter may not have the best intentions in doing so. With everything from serial killers to time travel, Call is a roller coaster best enjoyed with your eyes wide open.
The Guilty (2021)
This film follows a premise similar to Halle Berry’s 2013 nail-biter, The Call. It is also a remake of a 2018 Danish film of the same name, and comes reasonably close to filling its shoes. Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a 911 operator with a rocky past. When he receives a distressing call from a mother, he jumps at the chance to redeem himself, but finds himself caught in a situation impossible to decipher. Also starring Ethan Hawke, but as a voice actor, the twists in this thriller will keep you up at night.
An abducted woman (Kim Basinger) calls up Ryan (Chris Evans) and begs him to help her out. With the police sceptical and dismissive, Ryan ends up undertaking a thrilling chase across the city to save her and her family himself. The plot is simple, and may not have been hailed as ‘intelligent’ by most critics, but it makes for an exciting and entertaining film overall. Chris Evans is lovable as ever as he emerges a hero yet again.
When A Stranger Calls (2006)
This film sets the scene for a classic slasher film. A young, pretty babysitter begins to receive eerie, anonymous calls while at a job. If that sounds familiar, it’s because this film is a remake of Fred Walton’s 1979 film of the same name. This one, however, takes the iconic first 20 minutes of the original and weaves the rest of the story around them. As long as you don’t compare it to the original, the film is fun and brainlessly scary enough to satisfy you (and make you double check the locks on your doors).
Karthik Calling Karthik (2010)
The horrors of receiving a phone call from a stranger who might either be in danger, or the danger itself, are aplenty. But picking up the phone to his own voice is not something Karthik (Farhan Akhtar), a disconsolate underdog, had expected in his wildest dreams. This is one truly scary film about unresolved trauma that will keep you guessing until the end.