Like many of you, I’ve been eagerly awaiting to see director Scott Derrickson’s new installment in terror, The Black Phone, which is now out On Demand, VOD, and streaming on Peacock.
The Black Phone centers on “Finney Shaw, a shy but clever, bullied, 13-year-old boy abducted by a sadistic killer 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.
Young actor Mason Thames, who stars as Finney, gives performs far beyond his years. He’s incredible at emoting his character’s fear, sadness, and desperation as he faces “The Grabber” and the reality of his situation. He starts as a meek, somewhat pathetic character who evolves into a man of the action thanks to the guidance of the spirits of “The Grabber’s” past victims who communicate with the boy through an old, broken phone on the wall of the stark, dingy basement where they were all kept before coming to their brutal end.
“The Grabber” is played by Ethan Hawke who gives a great performance as well, though he constantly hides behind a horned mask that has interchangeable parts, a smile, a frown, etc. Still, he gets his emotions to come out clearly.
While the story is an emotional one, there is plenty of jump scares, but don’t worry, there are real scares too. Director Scott Derrickson uses everything in his arsenal to make The Black Phone scary while somehow keeping it grounded, even with all the paranormal aspects, delivering a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Derrickson builds up the tension masterfully, creating a fantastic balance in this perfectly timed movie. Bravo.
The bulk of the special effects come with the appearance of “The Graber’s” previous victims, boys cut up, dead, and blue, as well as Gwen’s dreams. There aren’t a ton of effects in the movie, it relies on its character’s performances and it was a fantastic choice.
Finney and his little sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), who has some psychic abilities, are at the heart of the story. Somehow the two remain close and kind even though their home life is horrible, thanks to their alcoholic, abusive father. Which only makes us feel more for them.
Based on Joe Hill’s short story, The Black Phone proves that Hill inherited some of his father’s (Stephen King) talent. I look forward to seeing what he does next.
The Black Phone pulls you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat as every horror movie should. It’s a must-see for all horror fans. And if you like it, I recommend you also check out Summer of 84, now streaming on Netflix.