What is it with phone calls in horror films? Well, for one our fear is amplified a thousand times because our menacing antagonist is totally anonymous. Seriously, you never know what you’ll find on the other end of the line: A bill collector, your most hated ex, or a voice from beyond the grave? Horror movies have capitalized on, and helped to create, our fear of communication devices for decades. And that’s the topic at hand today.
Yes indeed, this is the 15 Most Terrifying Phone Calls In Horror Movies.
15. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Set in 1986, 13 years after the events of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, two rowdy high school seniors, Buzz and Rick, race along a desolate stretch of Texas highway, en route to the OU-Texas football game at the Dallas Cotton Bowl. They are heavily intoxicated and use their car phone to call and harass on-air radio DJ Vanita “Stretch” Brock (Caroline Williams).
Unable to convince them to hang up, Stretch is forced to keep the line open. Buzz and Rick encounter a large pickup truck which runs parallel to them on a remote bridge. Suddenly, Leatherface (Bill Johnson), wielding a chainsaw, emerges from the back of the truck and proceeds to attack Buzz and Rick. After a short struggle, Rick tries to shoot Leatherface with a .44 Magnum revolver, but misses his target. Leatherface then slices off part of the driving Buzz’s head, and the car ends up crashing and killing Rick.
With the phone line open the whole time, the entire encounter is recorded and ultimately leads to the hideaway of Leatherface and the rest of his psychotic kin.
14. Pontypool (2008)
Pontypool takes place over a single day in a small town in Ontario. More specifically, it takes place in a radio station, where a DJ, the station manager, and an assistant end up reporting on and ultimately fighting off a zombie apocalypse… or something like that.
While the trio are in the station they periodically receive calls from their helicopter reporter, Ken, updating them on the carnage that he is witnessing. Eventually, an audibly frightened Ken calls and says he has taken refuge in a grain silo. He describes what he sees outside as people eating their way inside others and tearing themselves apart. Ken is basically the eyes and ears for the trio as well as us, the audience. And whenever he calls, you can bet the news isn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows.
13. Compliance (2012)
Based on a true story, Compliance tells the tale of an assault-by-proxy inside a fast food restaurant in Anytown, USA. A prank caller convinces over-stressed restaurant manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) that he is a police officer, and that he needs her help in solving a crime. The caller persuades the manager, other employees, and even the young employee “criminal” Becky (Dreama Walker) to perform a snowballing series of “tests” to prove her innocence. Ultimately, this culminates with Becky being forced to perform a sex act, after being held hostage for hours in the manager’s office with only an apron covering her.
The details are jarringly similar to the public facts in the case. And before you start asking all of the rational questions… like how could anyone possibly go along with this? Believe us, the movie answers them – but they only lead to more questions. What kind of a society are we if we don’t encourage objective and reasoned thought? What would you have done? Worse still – what personal information about YOU could the caller have twisted into blackmail? Heady stuff.
12. Teeth (2007)
Dawn O’Keefe (Jess Weixler) is a teenage spokesperson for a Christian abstinence group called The Promise. She dates in groups, watches G-rated films, and has never even kissed a boy. However, the power of teen hormones is great, so temptation beckons. After a few run-ins with a few overzealous young men, Dawn realizes that she has a toothed-vagina (a condition known as “vagina dentata”), which is exactly what it sounds like. If you stick something in there then there is a good chance that it’s going to be bitten (or bitten off).
After warming to a young fellow Dawn is surprised when they have tooth-free sex. She concludes that the teeth only come out when she’s not cooperating fully. Her theory is confirmed when she goes another round with the same guy. Mid-copulation he answers his phone (a bad move on his part). He apparently had a bet going that he could lay Dawn and even goes so far as to brag about the act while he’s still inside of her. Needless to say, none of this is received well by Dawn nor by her shark-like hoohah, which instantly claims another victim.
11. The Babadook (2014)
Amelia has been living a rough life for the last few years. On the way to the hospital to give birth to her son, Samuel, she is in a fatal car wreck that kills her husband, leaving her all alone to raise their child. As Samuel gets older he begins displaying erratic behavior: he rarely sleeps through the night, and is constantly preoccupied with an imaginary monster, which he has built weapons to fight. Amelia becomes visibly resentful of her child the more seemingly fanatical he becomes.
Over time Samuel becomes more and more convinced that Mister Babadook (as he’s now known) is a real thing stalking his mother but is disbelieved thanks to his well-known over-active imagination – even when strange occurrences happen Samuel is blamed. That is until Amelia destroys the book he originated from only to find it turn back up on her doorstep and takes a phone call with a voice saying “Ba-ba-ba dook dook dook”. Is The Babadook real, and if so, what does it want?
10. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
A classic tale: A young FBI cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims. Jonathan Demme’s The Silence Of The Lambs is a masterpiece of suspense and a truly intelligent outlier in the horror genre.
The final scene, in which FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) receives a phone call from a recently escaped Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), encapsulates everything that is so perfect about this film. Watch for the chilly punning (“I’m having an old friend for dinner”), the psychological intensity of Starling and Lecter’s relationship, and the tidy plotting that allows Lecter to escape after helping nab Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). All of this couldn’t have been possible without the drama of the phone call.
9. The Blob (1988)
One night, a mysterious object crashes to earth, but as we soon find out, this ain’t no comet. Held inside is a deadly being that has but one goal: To devour everything and anything that has a pulse.
With a movie like this, the only thing that matters is the amount of carnage and gore it presents – and The Blob has plenty of both. Many people die quite brutally during the 95-minute runtime but the most memorable death is from the woman who tries futilely to hide in a phone booth from the visitor. Of course, the being squeezes itself inside and assures that there isn’t room for the both of them.
8. 976-EVIL (1988)
Between A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master in 1988 and A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child in 1989, Robert Englund deviated from his safety zone of playing the burnt-face Freddy Krueger and jumped behind the camera. With 976-EVIL Englund would make his directorial feature film debut. The film’s title refers to the 976 telephone exchange, a now obsolete premium-rate telephone number scheme that was popular in the late ‘80s.
Here, we meet Hoax, who, instead of calling a hotline to hear a psychic read him his future, he dials 976-EVIL and gets granted satanic powers that completely corrupt him. Not to mention, they turn him into a demon. He then uses these powers to brutally murder all of those who ever did him wrong, naturally.
7. The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
The Mothman Prophecies is a twisted, confusing account of a writer and his personal investigation of a town’s haunting by a phenomenon called “The Mothman” after his wife suffers from hallucinations of a winged person in the aftermath of a car accident. His research takes him to a town in West Virginia where he meets several townsfolk who have all seen the same image as his wife. In an attempt to uncover the truth behind the story, our protagonist ends up falling victim to the mysterious Mothman himself.
When our guy is in his hotel room, talking on the phone to the supposed Mothman, it truly is a little slice of terror. It’s not just that the Mothman has a really spine-chilling voice, he can also see everything going on, even where things are hidden. Creepy.
6. When A Stranger Calls (1979)
A teenage girl, Jill (Carol Kane), goes to the Mandrakis’ home one evening to babysit the couple’s two small children. Within an hour, she begins receiving a series of alarming phone calls from an unidentified man who cryptically asks her, “Have you checked the children?” Neither she, nor the audience ever see the person making these calls, so the mystery, compounded with the caller’s monotone, deep voice, instills fear.
Terrified, Jill phones the police, who put a trace on the Mandrakis’ phone line, preparing to pinpoint the stalker’s location the next time he rings. As expected, the unidentified man calls again, and this time Jill must keep him on the line long enough for the police to run their trace. When Jill asks the man what he wants with her, the voice slowly replies, “Your blood…all over me.” In a bone-chilling twist, the police alert Jill the mysterious calls are coming from inside the house. Jill escapes without (physical) harm; however, the children are brutally murdered in their beds by the madman. Anyone who’s ever spent time around a campfire knows what’s coming, but spot on direction makes an old scary story feel downright timeless.
5. Black Christmas (1974)
As they are preparing to leave for the holidays, a sorority gets obscene phone calls from an anonymous, heavy-breathing man who threatens to kill them. Naturally, they ignore these death threats in favor of getting the sorority house in shape for the holidays – because everyone has so much on their plates during Christmas who has time to worry about whether a lunatic will make good on his threats to kill you?
With all the girls listening, the caller in question describes, in multiple voices, all of the perverted and violent things that he will do to them, all the while suggesting that he might have molested and/or killed his baby sister. When one sorority sister asks, “Could that really be just one person?,” bawdy, boozy Barb (Margot Kidder) responds: “No, Claire, it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir making their annual obscene phone call.”
4. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
One of the greatest villain and victim relationship comes in the form of Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) in the original Nightmare On Elm Street. Right before murdering Nancy’s boyfriend Glenn (Johnny Depp), Freddy calls Nancy only for her to hear Freddy utter the classic line, “I’m your boyfriend now.” This phrase is followed up with Freddy’s tongue coming through the phone in an attempt to get to first base with the film’s protagonist.
It’s hard to really feel bad for Nancy in this instance though, as she should’ve known nothing good was going to come from answering a ringing telephone that she had just torn out the wall.
3. The Ring (2002)
We all know the story: The Ring revolves around a cursed videotape and its connection to a scary girl named Sadako who was drowned in a well. If you watch the videotape you get a phone call to tell you that you will die in a week.
While investigating the mysterious death of her niece, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) watches the tape, bearing witness to a disturbing chain of black-and-white imagery. Shortly afterwards, like everyone before her, she receives a whispered phone call telling her she will die in seven days. The tale had already reached urban legend status by the time our heroines receive the call, so it’s basically like saying “Bloody Mary” into the bathroom mirror and finding out that it works. Spooky.
2. Halloween (1978)
Lynda (P. J. Soles) is a prime example of the old horror movie stereotype: If you have sex, you’ll end up a victim. Michael Myers had already dispatched of Bob – her boyfriend – stole his glasses and came up to the bedroom covered in a sheet (classic ghost style). Of course, Lynda, being the dumb blonde, (no offense blonde readers!) she falls for it hook, line and sinker. She tries to entice “Bob” by flirting with him, but we all know womanly charms don’t interest unstoppable killing machines.
She picks up the phone and calls Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is currently in the midst of babysitting duties. Before Lynda can speak, Michael grabs the phone cord and proceeds to strangle her to death, unbeknownst to Laurie who thinks she is fooling around and swears she will kill her if it is a joke. Ah dramatic irony, how we do love you.
1. Scream (1996)
Perhaps the ultimate film franchise to utilize the telephone, Wes Craven’s Scream saga all began with a little call made to bob-rocking Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore), who’s told by a gravelly-voiced stranger that she’s going to be gutted “like a fish.”
What makes the scene so brilliant is that it transitions well between parody and sincerity. At first our caller claims to have miscalled our victim, he then shifts into having a conversation with her that includes flirting and discussion of horror films. Rather than, you know, hanging up on him, she coyly continues with the conversation as any dumb horror movie teen would do. When she realizes the threat of the caller, she hurries off the phone only to be called back again. When she threatens to sic her boyfriend on him, his corpse is magically displayed within view of a window. When he eventually gets the jump on her, she runs from the house and sees her parents approaching, giving her and the audience a twinge of hope. But alas, he catches her and stabs her repeatedly. Her parents soon discover her lifeless body hanging from a front yard tree. Sheesh.
Are there any other calls you’d like to add to the list? Let us know below.