Yikes! Scott Derrickson’s The Black Phone is a nail-biting supernatural thriller that the director chose to make instead of getting involved with Dr Strange 2; a wise move in retrospect. While the trailer is freaky enough to engage interest, some will fear that this is just another gnarly, nasty-ass suspense flick dependant on jump scares, gore and masks, par for the course for horror in 2022. But The Black Phone is much more than that, and if you like your scary movies, off the hook good..
In a story set back in 1978, newcomer Mason Thames plays teenager Finney Shaw, a smart, if retiring young man who has a strong bond with his little sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw). The kids live in fear of a mysterious interloper known as The Grabber, played to the hilt by Ethan Hawke. The Grabber has a black abductor van with ‘abracadabra’ written on the side, and a selection of black balloons and magic tricks which he uses to ensnare his innocent victims. The Grabber kidnaps Finney, leaving law-enforcement (and Gwen) to try and figure out exactly where the boy has been spirited away to…
I’ll drop a semi-spoiler alert here, although the plot twist is front and centre in both the synopsis and trailer material; once Finney is locked in a soundproof basement, he’s subject to the Grabber’s sinister mind-games, but also to a mysterious ringing black phone in one corner of the room he’s being kept in. Who provides the voices he hears? Is it the previous victims of the Grabber, or is the Grabber playing a complex cat and mouse game with him? The voices seem to lead Finney towards possible means of escape, but has the Grabber rigged the deck against him for kicks? And will Gwen’s dreams of The Grabber provide the cops with key information that might lead to her brother’s rescue?
You’ll have to see The Black Phone for yourself to find out, but rest assured, this is a classy, often very funny thriller that takes edgy, disturbing material and fashions a scare-story for the ages unlike anything we’ve quite seen before. Thames and McGraw are both empathetic leads, but Hawke unsurprisingly steals the show in a nightmarish physical performance that uses a series of masks to conceal and distort the actor’s familiar features and bury him deep in a threatening, devilish persona. And while The Black Phone doesn’t go for cheap, irrelevant scares, genuine tension is maintained until the final frame. It’s hard to remember the last big, original horror\thriller than really worked, but The Black Phone should ring enough bells to be a genuine sleeper hit.
I’ve been hearing great things about this film. And it looks like it will be getting a Japanese release. Is it worth seeing on the Big Screen?
Yes, and with a big crowd. It’s got shocks, laughs and heart, the complete cinema experience! Enjoy!
I remember seeing Silence of the Lambs in the cinema and that was a great experience. When you mentioned it in your review, I was sold!
It’s not quite as iconic, but it’s in the same ballpark in terms of engaging an audience with big time tension!
Tension, yes! That’s been missing from a lot of recent films and TV. Episode 4 of the latest season of Stranger Things has an incredible tension-filled ending. I was literally gripping the arms of my chair and leaning into the screen. I’ve missed that feeling.
Cinema does these things even better. But Strangwr Things 4 was the best yet, some awesome writing there. Will review it once part 2 drops.
OK, cool! Looking forward to reading your take.
I know you’re expecting a nope, but I am somehow wanting to see this, but at home, when it streams and I can stuff my face into a cushion.
This IS the correct answer, it’s an excellent film that is worth comparing to classics lIke Sixth Sense or Silence of the Lambs. Hang on in there, you’ll be down the back of the couch when you finally catch this…
Meh. I’ll give it a look when it comes out on DVD. Thought Sinister and The Day the Earth Stood Still were poo though.
I’m in agreement with you about Derrickson’s previous work, but this is clearly a passion project, an original idea that works, and he gets the kind of performances you’d hope from the kids and Hawke. Get the library on the black phone!
Going to the library today, to pick up . . . The Eternals! Go me!
Do you have a prescription for that? It may cause wooziness, confusion and you should NOT operate heavy machinery for several days afterwards. I know I’ve been daring you to do it, but I won’t be responsible for any damange to your good self or furniture…
Given how long it is I’m going to have to spread it over a couple of days viewing. That should make it safe. But if you don’t hear from me in a week or so it may mean it was too much.
Put a key under your mat in case emergency services require access and you’re unable to make it to the door. And make sure that your neighbours know exactly what you plan to do; I’m still experiencing flashbacks…you’ll be begging to see Snake Eyes again!
That first pix is definitely creepy! It’s enough to warn me off….
That image is creepy for sure, but this is a classy thriller and worth the recommend. Scaredy-cats stay away…
Far far away it is then! I’ll see if Shrek can watch it for me….
Stick to the muppets…
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