If you want to feel stranger danger, look no further than Scott Derrickson’s new film The Black Phone in theaters now. This well constructed and acted supernatural thriller is well worth your time.
Pretty much all you need to know is in the trailer. In the late 70s in North Denver, there is a spate of missing children. Rumors abound of a predator named “the Grabber”.
Finney, the protagonist, is either a popular baseball pitcher, or a shy weakling who is picked on by bullies. He is soon grabbed by the grabber, played by Ethan Hawk in a mask channeling Pennywise the clown. His sister Gwen has a touch of the shinning, and has dreams about where the Grabber takes his victims.
While Finney is locked in the Grabbers basement, the disconnected BLACK PHONE in the room receives calls from the previous victims of the grabber from beyond the grave.
Finney must work to free himself using the knowledge given to him from the phone and using his own wits.
Review of The Black Phone
This is a very capable film. It feels very much like a Stephen King story, which makes sense, since the original story was written by his son Joe Hill. It is directed by Scott Derrickson, who previously directed Sinister and the Exorcism of Emily Rose. This is to say that The Black Phone is in capable hands.
A lot is given away in the trailer, which is unfortunate, but the film has some good twists and turns and ends up being compelling and engaging throughout.
The biggest pleasant surprise is the quality of the acting from the young cast. Especially Mason Thames who plays Finney, and Madeleine McGraw who plays Gwen, and has some of the best lines in the film.
The first act does a very good job of creating a compelling three dimensional character in Finney. His life isn’t all roses, having to deal with an alcoholic abusive father along with school yard bullies. We are shown that Finney is empathetic, strong, and capable, but doesn’t fight for himself. He seems to survive day to day depending on friendships and his relationship with his little sister. This sets up a compelling character arc that seems natural and satisfying in the end.
There isn’t a lot of time spent on the Grabber. He is more of a presence and more of a looming threat than an active participant for most of the film. I would have liked to see them do more with him. There was ample opportunity to go very dark, and I was a little surprised given Derricksons previous films that there wasn’t more done to show what The Grabber did with his previous victims. This might have upped the stakes a little and made The Grabber a more indelible villain.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable movie, and exceeded my expectations.
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