Prepare to come face to face with evil in the full-on horror flick The Black Phone, which places you in the claustrophobic lair of a mad man with the dread and terror growing ever more intense, minute by minute. And once you see the horror that lies at the heart of The Black Phone….you can’t unsee it.
Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, 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. Starring four-time Oscar® nominee Ethan Hawke in the most terrifying role of his career and introducing Mason Thames in his first-ever film role, The Black Phone is produced, directed, and co-written by Scott Derrickson, the writer-director of Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
When it comes to filmmakers who continue to find new avenues to take the horror genre in, Scott Derrickson is a top-of-mind choice. With his work on the likes of Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Derrickson has proven he can explore new corners of the genre, and he crafts a thoroughly unique, and claustrophobic cinema experience with The Black Phone. Tapping into fears of stranger danger, imprisonment and the horrors that hide in our community, Derrickson delivers a retro horror film of intense psychological fear and shocking gore factor, and fright fans looking for a good scare will be impressed. Adapted from the short story by noted horror author Joe Hill, Derrickson sticks close to the source material, and its intriguing to see how he mixes in different subgenres within The Black Phone to bring something new to the big screen.
Derrickson’s work on The Black Phone gave me an impression similar to what John Carpenter did with the original Halloween. Watching this film I felt as if it might have been a work that Carpenter himself would have made had he been given the opportunity back in the late 1970s. The atmosphere, threat and menace of The Black Phone made me liken it to a ‘terror film’ and its cat and mouse game between young kidnap victim Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), and The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) has a real menace and antagonism to it. Derrickson finds many different avenues to create scares. Whether they be childhood trauma and abuse, the presence of this dark and twisted killer or the film’s use of the supernatural, there are moments that will make you jump out of your seat.
Stepping into the role of the fiendish, crazy menace of the film’s lead villain, The Grabber, is Ethan Hawke and he falls into this creepy role completely. Hiding himself behind a demonic mask, The Grabber is a serial killer who is adding to his collection of dead children, and he’s a very scary man. There’s no motive for The Grabber’s actions given in The Black Phone, and this makes his presence that much scarier. He just does. He’s raw impulse, and you never come to understand the thought or rationale behind the horror, and this makes his actions all the more sinister. Hawke disappears behind The Grabber’s mask, and he’s a monster in this one. Toying with Finney through a series of twisted ‘games’ The Grabber is ritualistic in his actions, and Hawke doesn’t hide away from the evil that this character represents.
Throughout this film, you’re kept on the edge of your seat. With a developed shorthand as director and performer, Derrickson and Hawke keep the audiences in a vice of suspense and The Black Phone’s third act hits with the force of a hatchet, causing you to be in a fit of panic in the film’s final moments. The Black Phone is an inventive and different kind of horror picture, and fans of the genre will feel a shiver of fear run up their spines with this one.
Image: Universal Pictures