Here at FluentStream, we strive to be experts in all things communications. From cutting edge business VoIP to the historical intricacies of switchboard operation, we’re always on the up and up. Many of us are also avid horror movie fans.
It’s not often these two passions collide into something spectacular, but rest assured we’ve seen any and every attempt. As author Travis Holt puts it, "The phone is presented as a means of safety and comfort; it is a savior rather than a burden. Once the harassing phone calls begin, however, the view of the telephone becomes more sinister.”
So join us, my dear reader, as we delve into the very best (and amazingly-worst) horror movies all about the power of the humble telephone.
1. When a Stranger Calls
Fred Walton’s 1979 thriller When a Stranger Calls is best known for having one of the most iconic (and most spoofed) openings in cinematic history. Jill Johnson is settling in for another normal night of babysitting for a wealthy client. After the children are asleep, she receives a phone call from a man who asks if she has checked the children. Jill dismisses the call as a tasteless practical joke, but then he calls again, and again. The calls become increasingly haunting and aggressive until Jill becomes frightened enough to call the police.
What happens from there is a true masterclass of tension-fueled storytelling that is required viewing for any true horror fan.
976-EVIL is a 1988 supernatural horror film directed by Robert Englund. It focuses on two teenage cousins, Spike and Hoax, who stumble upon the titular novelty phone line 976-EVIL. At first the boys love hearing creepy fortunes for only a few dollars, but when they discover they’re actually speaking with Satan, the cocktail of hormones and demonic power quickly spirals out of control.
While not as highly-regarded as some of our other suggestions, 976-EVIL is still a fun romp for those looking to laugh as well as scream. It also gets bonus points for focusing on novelty phone lines, one of America’s greatest (and unfortunately forgotten) telephony-based industries.
3. Sorry, Wrong Number
By far the oldest film on our list, Sorry, Wrong Number is a 1948 noir thriller directed by Anatole Litvak. Barbara Stanwyck stars as a bedridden woman who overhears a sinister murder plot. Only able to assist through the telephone, she attempts to help her husband solve the mystery and prevent the grisly crime from being carried out.
The premise sounds simple, but rest assured that the twisting plot and shocking ending will prove why Sorry, Wrong Number is such a classic.
4. The Black Phone
The modern horror landscape is absolutely lousy with films that use supernatural scares as a metaphor for coming-of-age trauma. Frankly, we’re all a little tired of it. Scott Derrickson’s 2021 stab at the genre The Black Phone probably won’t blow anyone’s mind, but it nails each aspect of its narrative with a dogged, albeit unimaginative determination.
It also — if you couldn’t tell by both its title and inclusion on our list — heavily revolves around the power of the telephone.
The Black Phone takes place in 1978 Denver (Hey that’s where FluentStream was founded!), where a masked serial child abductor nicknamed "The Grabber" prowls the streets. Siblings Finney and Gwen Blake live in the area and are forced to deal with an abusive father at home and equally-abusive bullies at school. Soon enough, Finney is kidnapped by the Grabber and awakens in a soundproofed basement with nothing but a disconnected black rotary phone. The basement door is left open, but unnatural voices over the phone inform him that escape won’t be that easy.
5. One Missed Call
One Missed Call is a 2008 supernatural film directed by Eric Valette. Like most of the horror scene during that era, it’s based on a Japanese original. Also like most horror films based on a Japanese original, it's widely-regarded as a cheap knockoff. In fact, One Missed Call holds a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, earning the site's Mouldy Tomato Award for the worst-reviewed film of 2008.
“Why would I ever watch it then?” I can hear you asking yourself aloud. Because, my dear reader, every horror fan knows that the stinkers can be just as (if not wildly more) entertaining than the hits. No one thinks The Room is good cinema, but watching it is still endlessly fascinating.
While not quite on that level, One Missed Call truly is a masterclass in filmmaking at its most derivative and forgettable. Nearly every scene can be immediately pinned to its inspiration, and seeing who can do so the fastest makes for a party game far more engaging than the film itself.
Need a friendly voice to help guide you through the horrors of inferior business phone service? Want to know more about FluentStream’s scary-good support and monthly savings? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 303-GO-CLOUD and selecting Option 1.