Directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Doctor Strange) and released in 2021, The Black Phone is a supernatural horror film adapted from the short story of the same name by Joe Hill. When teenaged Finney (Mason Thames) is kidnapped by notorious serial killer The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), Finney is able to speak with past victims via mysterious phone in the Grabber’s basement. Meanwhile, Finney’s sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) aids local law enforcement through mysterious psychic visions.
+ collaborating with director Scott Derrickson again after Sinister, Ethan Hawke is great at toeing that line between pathetic and psychotic that makes horror movie villains so enjoyable. Mason Thames and and Madeleine McGraw are both fine as unknowns to me, but neither were stand outs. My long time personal favourite Jeremy Davies is really good as Finney and Gwen’s alcohol father
+ I have not read the original story, but I thought the story was interesting, and I actually really liked the ending for once in a movie like this, though I did have one issue (see below). I was a big fan of the very claustrophobic setting that the Grabber’s basement provides for
– the spooks are fine, but there was only one moment I would actually call ‘horror’. This might otherwise be a supernatural thriller more than anything which is not what I was expecting
– the entire subplot with Gwen psychic powers took me entirely out of the story. I’m not a fan of these ‘real world’ horror set ups, only to be bogged down with psychic mumbo jumbo. At that point, why not just say that magic is real? I understand it played into the story, but I would have very much enjoyed it if that subplot was cut entirely
> The Grabber’s mask has separate top- and bottom-halves, which means it could for example have happy eyes with an angry mouth. I wish this customisation was used a bit more often
Should you see this film: This was a perfectly fine movie, but I am flabbergasted to have waited so long for a home release after reading review on review of how incredible it was. Ethan Hawke was the obvious highlight, but overall I can’t believe this is on anyone shortlist of movies of the year.