One of the most anticipated films of 2022, The Black Phone, delivers in suspense, a great musical score, and performances. Directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Exorcism of Emily Rose, and Deliver us from Evil) and written by Joe Hill based on his short story of the same name, the movie keeps the viewer engaged and uneasy at times. Joe Hill, who is the son of Legendary Author Stephen King, throws some slight references to his father’s work in the movie that you should keep an eye out for.
The film is set in 1978 in a suburb of Denver, where the town is being terrorized by a child abductor nicknamed, “The Grabber.” The story centers around siblings Finny (Mason Thames) and Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), who live with an abusive alcoholic father Terrance (Jeremy Davies). Finny is constantly bullied and harassed at school. He does however have a strong bond with his sister Gwen as they try to not anger their alcoholic father as well as trying to avoid being another victim of, “The Grabber.”
This opening of the movie is a slow burn as we learn about the characters and give some fleshing out of who they are. It is implied that Gwen has some supernatural powers she might have inherited from her mother, which play a pivotal role later in the film. The character of Gwen was my favorite character in the movie. Her wit and humor were very nice attributes of the character. I thought Madeleine McGraw did a fantastic Job in her role and as matter of fact I thought all the child actors did a great job.
Unfortunately for Finny he becomes “The Grabber’s” next victim. This is where the movie gets very uneasy. The subject of child abduction is a tough subject to talk about. This is where I think Director Scott Derrickson does a great job presenting the atmosphere of uneasiness and lost hope. The abduction is shot in a creepy way as well as the carrying of Finny to the holding room.
The room that Finny is placed in is a basement area that has a one window, toilet, and mattress/box spring. Along with a black rotary phone that has its wires cut. However, the phone rings with the voices of “The Grabber’s” victims aiding and sometimes even mocking Finny. Again, the portrayal of the children in these roles is creepy and extremely effective. These scenes leave the viewer feeling uneasy and fearful of jump scares that may or may not happen.
Ethan Hawke’s performance as, “The Grabber”, adds to the uneasiness of the film. “The Grabber” has several devil shaped masks and speaks in a sometimes childish and aggressive tone. Hawke in his limited screen time pulls off the role excellently. His mannerisms and dialogue make you cringe as well as fill you with some sort of hatred for the character.
The Black Phone is not a cinematic masterpiece, but it is a nice roller coaster of suspense and uneasiness. You find yourself rooting for Finny and being either creeped out by or hating, “The Grabber.” In my opinion this is a nice change of pace from Sinister, but it still holds some of the attributes of creepiness from that movie. The realism of the crime adds fuel to that fire. I personally got a lot of Sixth Sense vibes while watching this movie. Check this one out and let us know what you think!