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Answer the call from The Black Phone for a spooky good time
Following a somewhat conversational exit from directing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Scott Derrickson returns to the horror genre in Paramount Pictures, The Black Phone. Derrickson pens the film’s screenplay, an adaptation of the 2004 short story of the same name by Joe Hill.
Set in 1978 in a suburban Colorado town, The Black Phone introduces us to Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), a shy but clever 13-year-old boy who is a whiz in baseball pitching. Finney lives with an alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies) and his sister Gwen (Madeline McGraw). The town has recently experienced tragedy as five children have gone missing.
One day Finney is abducted by the sadistic killer, The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. And they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney. Meanwhile, Finney’s sister Gwen experiences psychic dreams that send her on a quest to find him.
Scott Derrickson reunites with horror production company Blumhouse whom he collaborated on the 2012 hit, Sinister, which also starred Hawke. It’s a welcome reunion and worth the trip to the theater to experience with a crowd. Derrickson’s script takes its time with its story by introducing us to Finney and his home, thus allowing us to feel remorse for his character early on.
Masen Thames is quite impressive in his first starring role as he portrays Finney, a character that anyone can relate to, with this sentiment also carrying over to Madeleine McGraw. Both young actors bring their A-game and have a genuinely believable sibling relationship. Kudos to Jeremy Davies, who provides a layered role as their dad.
As for Ethan Hawke, he continues to show why he’s still one of the best actors of his generation with his performance. I won’t go into detail spoilers about “The Grabber,” but let’s say I preferred Hawke’s turn here as a villain to his phenomenal work in Moon Knight.
I wanted to keep my review brief as audiences should experience the film as fresh as possible. I will point out that a tiny gripe in the movie is the handling of law enforcement towards The Grabber. Granted, it was 1978, and maybe things were a bit laxer. However, even in a small town, I feel that more than two bumbling cops would be on the case.
Efficiently mixing the coming of age trope with traditional horror while respecting the audience, The Black Phone is highly recommended.
Final Grade: A-
The Black Phone opens in theaters tomorrow June 23rd.
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