The Black Phone (Review)
Directed by Scott Derrickson of Marvel's Doctor Strange, The Black Phone is a book adaptation Coming-of-age thriller set during the early Seventies featuring Finney Shaw, (Mason Thames) a shy kid who gets bulled in school, and as if that wasn't bad enough, a grim-masked child abductor called,
"The Grabber," (Sounds like a generic Spider-Man villain from the Seventies.) kidnaps Finney and holds him in an isolated soundproof room with no one to communicate with....except for a few familiar "voices" from a rotary black phone! Are they voices from the dead, or is Finney imagining things?
Black Phone has few good features going for it, thanks to a solid cast with Ethan Hawke taking his turn as a creepy antagonist in a horror film, which is the actor's most disturbing if not menacing role to date. Mason Thames paired along with Madeleine McGraw were almost viewed spiritual successors of Phantasm's Mike and Jody Thornbury.
What I also found troubling, was how Finney and his sister Gwen often catches hell from both ends, be it an abusive alcoholic father or the jerks who deliver the daily after-school beatdows. The latter contained a scene, where a racist punk gets his ass handed to him by a "Beaner” named Robin, but that was among the few standouts of this film, that has an added element to it, Gwen a foul-mouthed feisty kid, is gifted with clairvoyance, that enables her to predict outcomes through her dreams, but her father thinks she's crazy and tries to set her straight. Again, there were parts of this movie that I found a bit uncomfortable, and some may find the dialogue politically incorrect at times, but it's well adept and tantamount to the story.
There were a handful of clever Pop culture references to balance out some of the serious moments, however, it’s the final 20 minutes of suspense where things take a more interesting turn, and that's where this movie really gains traction! I was expecting to write this movie off as hyperbolic horror, while going in and perhaps it was either skepticism, or internal bias towards co-producer and co-writer Robert Cargill aka "Massawyrm" from the Aint it Cool News alumni. in my opinion, some of staff there, were almost as bad as the posters in the forums...well, nowhere as bad as their former employer, Harry Knowles but I digress.
While a good film that exceeds expectations thanks to another collab between Derrickson and Cargill , Despite the Black Phone being more or less derivative than say, formulaic due to the film's familiarity with other suspense thrillers i.e. Stranger Things, IT and the Lovely Bones, at its core, the film contains two horror narratives in one, aside from the serial killer arc, the other consists of psychological torment stemmed from abuse, be it schoolmate bullies, or an abusive parent.
However, it’s the supernatural element that compliments these real-life horrific scenarios. As it stands, The Black Phone, is one of the better horror offerings of 2022.
I would recommend it for a Saturday night watch with or without friends, a date or maybe, alone which would be a more immersive experience. Just make sure you turn off the lights!
📞📞📞 1/2 out of Five!