The Black Phone is now playing in theaters, you should see this film if you are a fan of Joe Hill’s work.
The Grabber is a serial murderer who abducts and likely murders adolescent boys in Denver in the 1970s. Thirteen-year-old Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) is more worried about his neighborhood bullies than he is about meeting The Grabber, despite the fact that his strong sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) occasionally helps. In the wake of Finney’s friend’s kidnapping, Gwen’s ability to foretell these kidnappings comes to light. Terrence (Jeremy Davies), the children’s inebriated father, is rougher than the cops. When Finney is out and about one day, he comes upon a man driving a black van. Finney is startled. He’s been kidnapped only a few seconds later.
Finney, a young kid played by Mason Thames, is dealing with the loss of his mother while also being bullied at school and having to deal with the destructive behavior of his alcoholic father. During this time, Finney’s fiery younger sister Gwen, played by Madeleine McGraw, is seeing psychic glimpses of a local serial killer known as the Grabber, played by Ethan Hawke, who is responsible for the deaths of five children in the neighborhood. After Finney is kidnapped by the murderer, the ghosts of the victims of the Grabber make touch with him through a broken phone that is located in Finney’s cellar. After that, the spirits and Gwen each make an effort to use their psychic abilities to assist Finney in evading capture.
As a short story adaptation, The Black Phone strikes a sweet spot in terms of subject matter, setting, tone, and star that should appeal to horror aficionados of all stripes—”the Conjuring audience,” as it were—that only shows up on rare occasions to be horrified in a theatre under these kinds of conditions. It centers on a kidnapper, much like in A Nightmare On Elm Street (1989). (and eventually, a killer). “Stranger Things”-style “filmic nostalgia” takes place in the not-too-distant past, just like “Stranger Things.”
Derrickson and Cargill manage to inject some lighthearted moments to a stressful and somber drama without sacrificing the film’s overall dark tone. Their script is similarly patient, relying on the film’s atmosphere to elicit the frights until the third act, which concludes this outstanding work.
Ethan Hawke, who only occasionally takes on villainous roles in movies, is absolutely chilling to see as The Grabber. When Hawke is on screen, his menacing presence is never absent, whether it be during scenes in which he inspires fear with the look in his eyes or when he is simply waiting to use his belt on another character. Please, God, may there be more bad guys for Ethan Hawke to play in the movies that come after this one.
Only sparse amounts of music are used, with the strongest sound effects coming from the movie’s title gimmick, a crackling land-line static that remains even after we learn who the disembodied voice belongs to.
Even if The Black Phone is not as successful as Sinister was, it is still a really interesting film to see. Director Scott Derrickson will always have Sinister as a difficult act to follow in his career. The Black Phone is loaded with enjoyable aspects and captivating aspects, including several scene-stealing turns and compelling characters; nonetheless, the film does not push the envelope as far as the source material permits.
The Black Phone is a fascinating, absorbing, supernatural thriller that uses scares and violence sparingly but with tact. This is one of the many things that contributes to the film’s resounding reputation as such. The suspense is expertly built up by Derrickson in preparation for a tense and exciting climax.