Black Phone Review

Stephen King is considered one of the world’s best novelists. He has created some of the best horror and pop culture novels of the last fifty or so years. His credits are numerous. That can’t be said about his son Joe Hill. The Black Phone is based on his story, though, and a new horror legend is about to be born into the horror film genre. This is Scott Derrickson’s follow-up to Doctor Strange since he was unceremoniously discharged from Multiverse of Madness. He also gets to work with his Sinister collaborators Ethan Hawke and C. Robert Cargill once again. Here’s hoping The Black Phone repeats that success.

In North Denver, Colorado, there is a kidnapper of children running amuck named The Grabber (Ethan Hawke). He waits until his victims are walking alone to grab them. He eventually grabs a 13-year-old boy named Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), who he keeps in his basement. This isn’t the weirdest part, though. Finney gets calls from an unconnected black phone while he’s being held prisoner in the cellar. He must figure out who’s calling him and what it all means.

The setting of the film and the look of the film were what sucked me in right away. The ’80s have always had a soft spot in my heart because it’s when I grew up. Kids on bikes is a subgenre of action-adventure, and in this case, it leads into a horror film. So these genres were mixed very well, along with a detective investigation. Derrickson seemed right at home with all of these genres.

The cast beside the two leads was so good. Mainly the kids. The sister of the main kid in the film, Gwen Shaw (Madeleine McGraw), was excellent. Her story parallels her brother in a side plot — they were like a yin and yang to each other. The other kids in the film were pretty cool as well. They all had different personalities of their own, and they don’t resemble anyone else in this film. They are all distinctly different and original from one another. The character actors we’ve seen before, like Jeremy Davies, James Ransone, and E Roger Mitchell, were all nice additions that complimented the kids very well.

Two of the best aspects of this film I can’t say enough about are the cinematography by Brett Jurkiewicz and the original music by Mark Korven. The film has a grain and shadowy look to it that makes it look authentic to this time in American history. The greyness of the sky and the backdrop fit perfectly for the film. The music brought a moody yet original sound to the film. During the ominous scenes, the music seemed more dreadful, and during other parts, it was lighter for the children it followed in the film.

Even though there were a lot I liked about this film, there were a couple of things I didn’t like. In one scene where the main boy’s sister is running out of the house, she’s just running in place. I don’t know if this was intentional or if the editors missed this in the editing process. Another aspect I wasn’t on board with was the clunky dialogue at the beginning of the film. As the film moved forward, the acting and dialogue were much better for everybody involved in the movie.

Ethan Hawke is like a sponge as an actor. He absorbs everything he needs to become each of his characters. He knew he needed to be big and over the top but still be an evil presence on camera. He so easily transitions from film to film and character to character. Having already worked with Derrickson before, these two probably already have a shorthand with one another. They both know what they want from a scene and or character, and it shows very evidently onscreen in the film. He is amazing as a villain that could be an afterthought in the context of the film.

The Black Phone fits perfectly in the world and time it takes place in. The cinematography and original music both set a tone for how this film should look and sound. The cast, mostly kids, were all fantastic, especially Thames and McGrew. Ethan Hawke does what he always does: he molds into his character with the precision of a seasoned professional he is. Derrickson fit this film into a few different genres, and they all worked together perfectly. This film will be one horror fans will love and general audiences will embrace. The horror renaissance continues on with this film.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

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