The Black Phone (2021)

black phone poster 2021 movie ethan hawke
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun horror movie ride

The actual phone feels kind of arbitrary

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Black Phone

Studio:  Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Crooked Highway

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  September 25, 2021 (Fantastic Fest)/June 24, 2022 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

black phone mason thames finney blake

The long distance charges on this landline are huge

Something is killing the children.  A man called “the Grabber” (Ethan Hawke) is taking the children and once they are taken, they are never seen again.  Finney Blake (Mason Thames) and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) are growing up in tense home with a father (Jeremy Davies) who never liked that his wife claimed to have visions and the gift of second sight.  When Finney is taken by the Grabber, he finds himself locked in a basement where the only hope could be a mysterious black phone in which the spirits of the deceased victims can speak to him.  Gwen is hoping her visions can somehow find her missing brother as Finney seeks for a means to escape.  The clock is ticking, and Finney is running out of time.

Directed by Scott Derrickson (who adapted the screenplay with C. Robert Cargill), The Black Phone is a supernatural horror film.  The movie is based on the short story “The Black Phone” by Joe Hill that was originally published in The Third Alternative #37 in 2004 and collected in his short story novel 20th Century Ghosts in 2005.  It’s released was delayed by COVID-19, but it received positive reviews when it received a wide release in 2022.

black phone ethan hawke grabber shirtless

I don’t know what you’re into Grabber…but this is not the way to win friends and influence people

To be fair, I am not an Ethan Hawke fan so I was kind of hesitant of the movie.  Hawke however isn’t necessarily a big role in the movie, but he is effectively terrifying as the Grabber.  The Black Phone turned out to be a fun ride.

The story feels a lot like Hill’s father’s stories of victim empowerment.  Finney is bullied, comes from a rough home, and is a shrinking violet.  It is weird to think that being captured, tortured, and beaten by a psychopathic killer can make you a better person, but it does that for Finney (and in turn his father and his sister).  Instead of a lot of abuse and torture, Finney steels himself against what is coming and fights back…which feels pretty good.

Mostly made up of young actors in the major roles, both Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw are decent child actors.  They still have a little way to go, but they show good control and range in their performances (particularly Thames who has to go through a lot of emotional scenes).  Jeremy Davies is a good “jerk” and James Ransone is unfortunately shorted on screen time as the Grabber’s drug addicted brother.  Hawke is good, but his creepy segmented mask helps amplify the creepiness.

black phone grabber victims

The Anti-Grabber Club

The movie is a supernatural film because it has the ghost factor and that is done by a lot of stylized shooting.  While I do feel that the ghost part of the story makes the movie different, I also think it might be the weaker part to the script…but at least the film makes the arbitrary nature of the “Black Phone” look good.

The Black Phone most likely is a one-off horror film and that is good.  It is a solid horror movie with well-developed characters, and I’d like to leave it like that.  It is so rare today to have something that isn’t a sequel or a remake, and it appreciated.  The Black Phone may not be revolutionary, but it is original.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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