The Black Phone (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Black Phone (2022) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on June 21st, 2022 | Movie Review | Slow Burn, Survival, Supernatural, Blumhouse, Killer, Mystery, Serial Killer, Confined, Police, Suburb

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It's about a boy who is kidnapped by a child murderer but is able to communicate with his past victims through a black phone in his basement, whose help may be the only way for him to survive.

The Black Phone was directed by Scott Derrickson (Deliver Us From Evil, Sinister, and Hellraiser: Inferno) and stars Mason ThamesMadeleine McGraw (The Curse of La Llorona), Jeremy Davies (The House That Jack Built, Ravenous), Ethan Hawke (Regression, The Purge, and Sinister), James Ransone (It: Chapter 2, Sinister, and Sinister 2), Michael Banks RepetaRyan CronanBraxton AlexanderAndrew Farmer, and T. Maxwell Martin.

The Black Phone (2022) Review

Sinister, directed by Scott Derrickson and written by C. Robert Cargill, is considered by many to be one of the scarier modern horror movies. The pair returns to horror with an adaptation of Joe Hill's short story The Black Phone from the compilation 20th Century Ghost. Derrickson and Cargill take Hill's short story and turn it into a full-length nightmare, complete with ghost children, violence, and three stand-out performances.

It's 1978, and children are disappearing in a North Denver neighborhood. Unfortunately, Finney Shaw already has enough to deal with; he's bullied at school and at home. In addition, Finney and his younger sister Gwen must be careful around their drunk dad, which is sometimes tricky. But soon after one of Finney's only friends disappears, he meets the kidnapper. Desperate and alone, Finney finds a black phone in the kidnapper's basement. With time running out, Finney receives help from the other victims of the kidnapper who have called from beyond the grave.

The beginning of The Black Phone is very intriguing. The audience immediately feels sympathy for the kind and smart Finney, but his sister Gwen is even more captivating and could easily steal the show. Whereas Finney is a shy person, Gwen is fearless and speaks her mind to authority figures and even to Jesus. Gwen also has a unique talent that will help uncover the mystery of the missing children.

The kidnapper in the film is the polar opposite of the kids. Hawke's face is mostly hidden behind a mask designed by Tom Savini, which makes his performance even more creepy. The actor's portrayal of a mysterious, murderous character makes his constant threat of danger believable. His performance conveys the character's menace long before we see any evidence of his depraved actions. There are sudden outbursts of violence and fear, but nothing compares to Hawke's determined performance.

Although there are effectively scary moments, they are not frequent enough. Once the character of Finney starts talking to ghost children, the pace slows down too much. The director could have alleviated this with more scares throughout the story. As each child contributes a new element to the murderer's m.o., it recalls Sinister's similar story told through Super 8 tapes. Derrickson also included that same grainy home video look in Gwen's nightmares. The director also brings in James Ransone for some comedic relief to break up the harrowing tale of a child in peril.

Worth Watching? 

Although there is some overlap with other films in the genre, notably Sinister, The Black Phone is a well-done film that is scary and tension-filled. The small town depicted in the movie feels relatable and lived-in; the viewer comes to care about all of its residents long before the kidnapper arrives. The movie's biggest strength is its top performances. Thames brings the emotion, but McGraw is a very talented exception. And Hawke is in a league of his own, playing against type in a fantastic and very unsettling way. Although it may not send chills down your spine like their previous horror film, The Black Phone is still a haunting and thought-provoking experience.

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