After being abducted by a child killer and locked in a soundproof basement, a 13-year-old boy starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer’s previous victims.
After leaving the production of ‘Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness’, director Scott Derrickson made a decision to go back to the type of movies that he made his name with, adapting a 2004 Joe Hill short story called ‘The Black Phone’. The film of the same name is a supernatural horror film that centres on a kidnapped child who is able to use a mysterious phone to speak with the previous victims of his abductor. This provides him with vital information that enables him to start to plot a way to escape and evade his captor, where previous children failed.
I thought this was a pretty good film and that’s mostly because it focuses on the key aspects that make a horror film successful. That is namely a quietly intense atmosphere, a good villain and a chilling premise that helps to create that atmosphere. It’s set in the Denver suburbs in the late 70s, and everyone is on edge as kids keep going missing, with a mysterious kidnapper known as ‘The Grabber’ responsible. The police are on the hunt but they’ve made little headway when Finney (Mason Thames) is taken, putting him in line to be the kidnapper’s next victim. Ethan Hawke features in the villainous role and he delivers a superb and memorable performance – he should play more villains. The supernatural elements are well inserted, whether it’s through the phone calls that bring the grabber’s victims back to help Finney, or the visions of Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), Finney’s sister.
For those looking for a lot of scares it’s unlikely you’ll find it here – there are several jump scares but nothing too frightening (and I am a big fearty!). It’s more of a simmering and suspense filled horror, with the heart rate increasing on account of Finney’s various attempts to escape from the room he’s been imprisoned in. Scott Derrickson’s direction and handle on the material is strong and I found myself easily invested in the fate of the characters and how the story would pan out. Like most horrors you need to suspend belief a little at characters making stupid decisions, but that’s part of the charm – it’d be 10 minutes long otherwise! ‘The Black Phone’ is a solid horror movie, well-acted with good direction and an atmospheric tone, and for those looking for their horror kicks it should fit the bill.
Directed By: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal and James Ransome