The call’s coming from inside the house: 13 movies with eerie phone calls and messages

The call’s coming from inside the house
October 13, 2023
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When you think of “scary communication,” you’re probably thinking of fraud and phishing. But what if there were something more macabre on the other end of the line? That’s what horror movies have been exploring for decades, and you might be surprised by how many scary films are based on calls and other forms of communication.

Spooky season is upon us, so get in the Halloween spirit with these communication-based horror and thriller flicks that are sure to make your spine tingle.

1. Scream (1996)

“Do you like scary movies?”

If you do, you probably recognize this iconic line delivered by Ghostface, the murderer persona in the Scream film saga. In the opening scene, Ghostface terrorizes a high school student (Drew Barrymore) with a taunting phone call where they demand that she answer questions about horror movies correctly to save her boyfriend, who is restrained on her patio.

The rest, as they say, is horror canon history.

2. The Call (2013)

In this thriller, a 9-1-1 operator receives a phone call from a girl who has been kidnapped by a serial killer. With the girl locked in the trunk of the kidnapper’s car, every moment matters. The operator, played by Halle Berry, is determined to save her and coaches her on how to draw attention to the car and signal her location to the police.

In real life, Twilio enables first responders to get to the scene faster and with better information through a partnership with First Due. Read their story.

3. When a Stranger Calls (1979, 2006)

Sometimes a phone call can be a lifeline. Other times, it can kick off a string of terrifying events.

In When a Stranger Calls, teenage babysitter Jill picks up the phone and hears a mysterious voice asking if she has checked on the children lately. She dismisses the call as a joke, but things take a frightening turn when the phone rings again, and again, and again. When she contacts police and traces the call, she learns they’re coming from inside the house.

If only they had technology like AI-powered Voice Intelligence, they could have analyzed data about the mysterious caller—saving Jill from a lengthy ordeal that was reprised in a sequel.

4. Ring (1998, also titled Ringu)

A reporter investigates a disturbing video with an even more disturbing urban legend: anyone who watches it dies seven days later. The reporter watches the video, which contains seemingly random images and a screeching sound. She then sees an apparition and gets a phone call with the same screeching sounds, signaling her impending death—as if we needed any more reason to dread answering a phone call from an unknown phone number.

You may be more familiar with the 2002 American remake, The Ring, which is arguably equally chilling.

5. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022)

Craig experiences the dark side of modern connectivity when he starts receiving text messages from the other side. After his friend and mentor Mr. Harrigan dies, Craig continues to call and leave messages when he needs help. What he thought would be a shout into the void returns a supernatural response when Mr. Harrigan sends text messages back.

We find this very impressive, because while Twilio can deliver text messages in 180+ countries, we can’t process SMS from the other side (yet!).

6. The Net (1995)

A reclusive systems analyst whose life revolves around digital interactions realizes something is very wrong when two friends die suddenly. What she doesn’t is know that a floppy disk she received put a bullseye on her back. After being targeted with an attempted hit and having her identity erased, she desperately chats online with a fellow hacker who helps her determine the disk is connected to cybercriminals who will do anything to get it back.

7. Chain Letter (2010)

How many emails are unread in your inbox? What if one of them could change your life—or end it?

Chain Letter shows exactly how much is at stake in your inbox when high schoolers receive an email chain letter with instructions to forward it to five recipients—or else die. When some circulate the email and others ignore it, they realize how serious the threats are.

At Twilio SendGrid, we also take email very seriously and try our best to keep recipients’ inboxes free of spam and unwanted evil chain letters.

8. Cry Wolf (2005)

In Cry Wolf, things get tense when a prep school student gets an instant message from a “killer” he and his friends created. Wolf is the fictional serial killer they imagined and then introduced to their entire school body in an anonymous email. But when a person matching Wolf’s description shows up and attacks the students one by one, they aren’t sure who is telling the truth or what’s real anymore.

9. Pulse (2001, original title Kairo)

After the death of their friend Taguchi, a group of coworkers discovers a computer disk containing a haunting image in his house. The friends begin to receive calls where a distorted voice pleads “help me,” then they find the same haunting image from the computer disk on their phones. Things get spooky as they investigate the contents of the image and the forbidden rooms that appear in the homes of the dead.

You may also know the 2005 American remake of the same name.

10. Host (2020)

A group of friends holds a weekly video call to stay in touch during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Haley hires a medium to attend one of the video calls and lead the group in a seance.

But not all the friends take the seance seriously—until strange things start to happen. Unexplainable noises and apparitions make it clear that they’ve invited an unfriendly presence into their call.

11. The Black Phone (2021)

A serial child abductor and murderer called “The Grabber” has been terrorizing a Denver suburb. They abduct Finney, who awakens in a soundproofed basement that has a black rotary phone on the wall.

The phone is disconnected, but Finney hears it ring. When he answers the call, Finney finds that previous inhabitants of the basement are on the other side of the line.

12. Dial M for Murder (1954)

Tony, a retired tennis player, discovers that his wealthy wife Margot is having an affair. He plots to blackmail an old acquaintance into murdering Margot to inherit her fortune, fearing that a divorce would leave him with nothing. The murder plot hinges on a well-timed phone call, but it doesn’t go as Tony expected.

13. One Missed Call (2008)

Imagine checking a voicemail from your friend only to discover that it’s actually a message from yourself… from the future. The victims in One Missed Call receive ominous voice messages only to realize the timestamp of the message is actually the moment when they will die.

Maybe things would’ve gone differently if they forwarded their voicemails to email so they could screen the messages and trace them back to the sender.

Create spooky phone calls of your own with Twilio

Ready to get in on the spooky season fun?

When you sign up for a new account, you can start using Twilio for free (with $15 in credits).

We can’t promise to keep you safe from haunted messages or calls from beyond, but if you need to streamline your business' communication channels and engage customers, Twilio has your back.

Twilio is the industry-leading platform that powers your customer engagement. With communication solutions for every stage of the customer journey and AI features that help you make the most of customer data, Twilio makes communicating a little less scary.

Want to keep the spooky vibes going? Test your horror movie knowledge with our scary movie emoji quiz