Film Review – The Black Phone (2021)

Title – The Black Phone (2021) 

Director – Scott Derrickson (Sinister

Cast – Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, James Ransone

Plot – In the late 70’s teenager Finney (Thames) is kidnapped by a devious man known as The Grabber (Hawke) who holds him captive in his basement. With little hope of a way out, Finney discovers he can receive calls from The Grabber’s past victims via a disconnected phone on the basement wall, giving him his best chance at a way out of his predicament.  

“Wanna see a magic trick?”

Review by Eddie on 20/07/2022

Returning to his horror roots after a foray into the Marvel universe with his well-received 2016 Doctor Strange, director Scott Derrickson finds himself on similar ground to his genre entries The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister and Deliver Us From Evil with his new Blumhouse collaboration The Black Phone, an adaptation of a Joe Hill short story that reunites Derrickson with his Sinister lead Ethan Hawke. 

More of a thriller than a skin crawling horror (although there are ample jump scares found throughout and more than few instances of gore), Black Phone is a well-made low budget affair that draws out some great performances from its young lead cast members Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw as brother and sister duo Finney and Gwen, both caught up in Hawke’s The Grabber’s kidnapping of Finney that puts the youngster in harms way of a deranged killer but there’s also a sense that Derrickson and his adaptation had more too give had it delved a little further into the hows and whys of the happenings in this moody experience. 

Taking its time to get into the Finney vs Grabber plot that is anchored in both Finney’s unexplored ability to hear from The Grabber’s past victims via a disconnected phone and Gwen’s gift of being able to see visions in her dreams, Black Phone has a nice set-up and lots of nerve shredding moments, with Hawke having a real blast going all out under the masked profile of the devious kidnapper, but there’s a lot of barely explored components to the film such as The Grabber’s real motivations and the supernatural elements to the film that make one feel as though the story has shortchanged its characters and viewers along its journey. 

Derrickson has form in past films really nailing his films landings and neatly tying off loose ends to his tales with efforts like Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the highly memorable finale of Doctor Strange all films that ended on a high note and while Black Phone builds nicely and has some surprising elements to its final stretches it’s still hard to walk away from this feature feeling like the most of The Grabber and Finney’s battle with him was had even if the film and particular the performances of its young leads are above average for the genre in which Black Phone exists in. 

Final Say – 

There is some fun to be had from Derrickson’s newest horror/thriller and young actors Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw deserve attention for their performances here but there is too much left unexplored and unexplained in The Black Phone, holding it back from top-class stuff. 

3 naughty boys out of 5  

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