The Black Phone
review by Bobby Blakey
Before director Scott Derrickson stepped into the MCU with Doctor Strange he made a name for himself in the horror genre directing Hellraiser: Inferno, Sinister, and more. Now he is returning to the genre with his latest film The Black Phone starring Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, James Ransone and Ethan Hawke. Could this return to horror bring something worth getting taken for or will you be more eager to let it all go?
Black Phone follows Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy who is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. And they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.
This is one of the many movies that had been getting a big promo push before getting lost in the shuffle due to the pandemic. Now after so many date shifts the film is here, but does it deliver? The simple answer is all kinds of yes. First and foremost the setting being in the 70s really help the nostalgia of it all and harken back to a simpler, but often scarier time. I was expecting a straight forward horror flick, but instead got kind of a coming of age flick similar to the new IT films that is enveloped in a terrifying story.
There are a few jump scares, but it mostly relies on the real life ideas of how scary this situation is, not to mention the brilliant creepy and disturbing performance by Ethan Hawke. Like with any other iconic horror killer look is important and the varying masks designed by the always awesome Tom Savini are perfection. They create a tone to his personality every time we see him in a different one and even better no explanation to why. All the kids are good here with the brother sister duo played by Mason Thames and
Madeleine McGraw. They have great chemistry and bring all the emotion and depth needed for these characters together and all on their own.
There is a supernatural element that I was afraid would take us out of the vibe this film created, but it has simplistic explanation that works to not only make it further intriguing but comes together to perfection. There are moments that initially come off frustrating, but when you see why and how it comes together makes total sense and all the better. While I loved the whole film I think the arc of bravery, acceptance and realization for all these characters in their lives made it a real standout. There is a great ending, but more so an element of growth to them all that ties it back to that original coming of age tone set up in the beginning.
Scott Derrickson has another horror hit on his hands and I hope this isn’t his last and hopefully Hawke will be along for the ride once again. Check out The Black Phone in theaters now from Universal.