“The Black Phone” : Stranger Danger! – Movie Review by Ana Sofía Cintrón (@Ana_Sofia53). #TheBlackPhone
In 2012 the horror duo Scott Derickson and C. Robert Cargill brought a film that still haunts us to this day, and that is Sinister. Making its way to the top 10 scariest movies ever, It’s no surprise that the movie has made a huge influence within the horror community. Not many movies have scared me and made me feel uneasy quite like Sinister did. After working in the MCU with 2016’s Doctor Strange, this iconic duo went back to their roots, and announced their new project, The Black Phone. Being a fan from their previous work, I was quite excited about this one.
As children, one of the first rules our parents taught us is never to talk to a stranger; you never know what the person’s intentions are. Based on Joe Hill’s short story, The Black Phone tells the story of what it’s like to live that nightmare. After being abducted by The Grabber and locked in a soundproof basement, a 13-year-old boy called Finney, starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer’s previous victims.
Setting the scene for our story, taking place in the 70s; you’re greeted with a vintage home video title card. Presenting a nod to their previous film (Sinister), they instantly set up a grainy and vintage aesthetic seen throughout the movie. The first act is a slow build, alluding to what’s to come. Before the abduction occurs, we get a look into the main character’s family unit and their dynamic. This movie doesn’t shy away from showing serious themes in a very graphic way, setting up a dark tone throughout the movie. (TW: Child Abuse)
Ethan Hawke once again partnered up with the director, and this time not as the victim, but as the perpetrator. He becomes The Grabber by transforming himself completely, and it’s terrifying. Created by horror make-up artists Tom Savini; One of the key features is a mask, and he revolves his entire personality with it. Each mask had a different expression to suit his mood. Even changing his voice from high pitch to low. Along the film, there isn’t really enough depth going on with this character; we really don’t get a backstory nor motive to understand his actions. It is rather ambiguous, and they leave it up to the viewer’s imagination.
However, we must give major credits to the young actors, Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, because they shine in every way. They brought their A game and seamlessly showcased a range of emotions when they needed to. Both of these actors balanced each other well, and they gave stellar performances. But most importantly, they demonstrate a realistic sibling bond like no other. Dear Hollywood, keep an eye on these two because they have a great career ahead of them.
The film falls more into the supernatural category than any other. We see Finney getting aided by a mysterious phone where previous victims of The Grabber contact him. This brings out an interesting dynamic that somewhat elevated the storytelling. However, you can’t share the feeling that there’s a bit of IT reminiscence behind all of this. Especially because of the writer’s background.
With that being said, outside the kidnapper’s chamber there was a subplot that was being told, which is his sister Gwen using her psychic abilities to help her brother escape. This storyline felt embedded with force and there’s little to no explanation whatsoever. There wasn’t an equal care for the subplot, and I just wished they could have elaborated more.
The Black Phone is completely opposite of what Sinister was. This coming-of-age story is about resilience. In the mist of horror, we see Finney overcome his fears and stand up for himself. You can’t help but to root for him. The Black Phone is a nail-biting thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat! It’s filled with suspense from beginning to end. The jump scares didn’t feel gratuitous, and they were really effective. This film may have flaws, but it definitely blew my expectations. It’s an entertaining psychological thriller with a satisfying climax. A great summer horror flick to watch with your friends.