Black Phone was a refreshing and different take on horror. I mean there aren’t the cliche tropes like the slutty girl or the virgin final girl. There’s no token black guy who gets offed right away. None of that “car won’t start when the monster attacks” shit or my fav overly populated jump scares. I mean there’s one that I remembered in particular and that was well placed.
Now to give context…
The Black Phone is a somewhat supernatural, horror film directed by Scott Derrickson and written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, who both produced with Jason Blum. It is an adaptation of the 2004 short story of the same name by Joe Hill, son of my fav horror director, Stephen King.
The Black Phone is a thriller about a 13 year kid who’s abducted by a child kidnapper/child murderer, called The Grabber and receives calls from a broken phone from other kids that have also been taken.
The Grabber, played by Ethan Hawke is creepy at times but what makes his performance great is how he comes off as nice at times. I particularly enjoyed his mask, which changes with his differing moods. He’s not like Freddie Krueger or some other masked killer/slasher. On some level he’s relatable if that makes sense. Most characters like this are usually portrayed one of of 2 ways sinister and evil or sad and sympathetic in some way. Ethan Hawke somehow pulls off both. Having him team up with Scott Derrickson again was cool since I thoroughly loved the 1st Sinister flick, in which they both worked togetheras actor and director respectively. Hawke doesn’t make you feel overly sorry for his character with too much dialog and exposition but you do understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. Even scenes with his brother, Max played by James Ransone who also starred in Sinister. He offers some light funnier moments but not poorly executed comedy and jokes.
Another thing that I particularly noticed was that they didn’t dwell on The Grabber’s back story nor it did they make it the central point of the movie. What also makes the movie cool are the child actors in particular in the main character, Finny, played by Mason Thames. You completely want to root for this kid to get free as the film goes from up-and-down. It has its moments of will he make it & survive. Even though you know he will inevitably survive, there are moments where you really don’t know if you will. Initially I think that the trailer for this flick gave away too much and ruined some of the suspense surrounding his character. But overall it’s still a well fleshed out film.
The ghost kids that connect with Finney using this old phone and what I liked is how they sound. I mean the devil is in all of the details. From the set design and costumes. It even goes so far to show us throwback TV shows.
The dead kids’ voices are crackled like an old phone would sound but you can also tell that they are ghosts especially since the main character can’t see them but he can hear them through the film. And they do help Finny by offering clues that potentially lead to him getting free from this crazy person. All whilst his sister seeing their final moments before the Grabber finds and abducts them.
Finney’s sister also aids in his release as she can see see things in her dreams such as where the killer’s been in which law enforcement use to their advantage. Pretty much that adds to the supernatural feel of this movie alongside the ghosts. Despite my qualms with her supernatural abilities as being an extra layer to this flick, I like how her abilities tie into their mother being a diagnosed schizophrenic who just so happens to have the same type of gift. This in addition to her relationship with her brother shows a dynamic with their father who is is fairly abusive by today’s standards but you can tell that he actually cares about his children and loved their mother/his wife. You see is poor choice of coping mechanism via alcohol and how’s her really trying to raise 2 kids on his own. His character development really shines when he eventually goes out looking for his son.
Surprisingly much like the IT reboot a few years ago, the children in this film play their roles very well. I felt that this was important because much like the aforementioned movie IT, and shows like Stranger Things the bar is set really high for child actors.
The pacing is good and the filming style fits as the story takes place in the 70s. There are scenes that I felt were a bit shoddy as a result of poorly attempts to adapt from the book yet still that doesn’t take away from the film at all. The build-up is awesome because you connect with the kids. No matter how short their scenes were you knew that once they ran into the Grabber, that was it for them. And the kids that are already ghosts that we don’t see abducted or alive you wonder what happens to them or how the Grabber has killed them as you see there wounds or broken bodies talking to Finney in their ghastly appearances.
Overall, I enjoyed this film. However if you’re looking for a bunch of jump scares, a bunch of gore or any of those classic horror movie tropes, this is not the movie for you. This film is full of a lot of suspense and I would say it’s more of a thriller than anything that requires great attention to detail. But it’s still enjoyable and I recommend it as it’s really creepy. Heck, it made me hug my adult daughter afterwards.
If you haven’t seen it and it’s no longer playing in a theater near you, I suggest you getting the blu-ray when it’s released or a digital copy and watching it and pay a very close attention to all of the tidbits in this film.
The Black Phone also stars Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies and James Ransone.
It’s awesome. I give 3 out 4 thumbs up.
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