Technology can be terrifying. Think about it—before smartphones, you could disappear from the world and be un-contact-able by everyone you knew by simply walking out your front door. But now you have a tracking device in your pocket that you honestly cannot live without. Scary.
Phones have always played a big part in horror movies, because there’s nothing creepier than a stranger’s disembodied voice crackling over a landline (although now that we have smartphones and caller ID, horror movies have had to get a bit more creative). In honor of Halloween, here are 11 movies that will make you think twice about picking up that unknown caller.
Although Halloween doesn’t revolve around phone calls, phones play a big part in the storyline. At one point, a girl is murdered by Michael Myers after she receives a phone call from her boyfriend (asking her to pick him up). In another scene, Myers strangles a girl with a phone cord . Remember how phones used to have cords?
When a Stranger Calls (1979, remade in 2006)
This classic psychological thriller is all about creepy phone calls: A babysitter receives late-night phone calls from a stranger, who asks her about the sleeping children she’s watching. After several calls, she finally calls the police, who tell her they can track the caller’s location if she can keep him on the phone. They track his location only to find out that he’s calling…from inside the house.
976 – Evil (1988)
In this movie, the bad guy doesn’t call you, you call him. 976-EVIL is a premium fortune-telling phone line (it’s meant to be creepy, hence the “EVIL” in the number) that turns out to be a direct line to Hell. Whoops! To make things even more complicated, once our protagonist discovers the true nature of the phone line, he decides to use it to get revenge on his enemies. Obviously, this ends well (not).
Scream is one of those movies that worked better when phones were in houses instead of our pockets. In one scene, Drew Barrymore receives a flirtatious-slash-creepy phone call during which the caller asks her name because he “wants to know who he’s looking at.”
This Korean horror flick is about a cursed cell phone…number. That’s right. A phone number. The main character changes her phone number after receiving threatening (but not scary-threatening) phone calls, only to find out that her new number is, well, cursed. The previous owners of the number either disappeared or died mysteriously. And you thought getting other people’s bill collection calls was annoying!
The Ring (2002)
The Ring is more about a cursed video tape than a phone, but the urban legend in the film does include a phone ringing (once you’re finished watching the tape). After that, you have 7 days before you’re brutally murdered by a creepy water-logged girl.
Pulse is a science-fictiony horror film about a computer virus that connects the world of the living to the world of the dead. While it doesn’t directly involve phones, it does involve the Internet…and these days we spend a good deal of our phone time on the Internet. So if you lived in the world of Pulse, your phone would definitely be a liability.
One Missed Call (2008)
In One Missed Call, people receive phone calls from their future selves that reveal the exact day and time of their death. Interestingly, all of them then promptly die to keep the storyline chugging along (nobody receives a call that says they’re going to die 58 years from now, or anything like that). As it turns out, an evil, tormented ghost child is responsible for the calls.
End Call (2008)
End Call is a Japanese horror film with a story similar to 976-EVIL. In End Call, there’s a special phone number that dials up the devil, who will then grant you any wish you want. The only catch is that the amount of time the phone call takes is deducted from your life. Oh, and also it’s really expensive (one girl sells herself into prostitution to pay her phone bill). And, of course, the devil grants your wish in the worst way possible, and eventually everyone who calls the number dies. Doesn’t seem worth it.
Unfriended is more about social networks than phones. We see appearances from YouTube, LiveLeak, Instagram, Facebook, and Chatroulette. This horror movie is about a group of friends who are terrorized online by an anonymous person who turns out to be the vindictive ghost of a cyberbullied teen who committed suicide earlier in the film.
Cell doesn’t come out until next year, but it sounds like it’ll be worth watching. It’s based on a novel by Stephen King and it stars Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack. The premise: A mysterious signal broadcast over a cellular network is turning people into evil, violent beings.