The Black Phone (2021)
June 23, 2022 2:22 PM - Subscribe

Finney (Mason Thames), a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, is abducted by a sadistic killer (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. Based on a story by Joe Hill (Locke & Key). Written by the duo Robert Cargill & Scott Derrickson (Sinister). Directed by Derrickson (Doctor Strange).

Now playing in theaters in the US.

Rated 86% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Amblin adventure drenched in R-rated fear. -- Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle.

"The Black Phone" is at turns breathless, terrifying and crowd-pleasing, but always feels authentic to a time when the streets were prowled by real life boogeymen, whose legends were bolstered by the children who whispered their names. -- A-, Adam Graham, Detroit News

Underpinned by emotional performances across the board and a commanding atmosphere, The Black Phone aces its foundational qualities and allows its nuances to take control. -- ****/**** Peyton Robison,
posted by DirtyOldTown (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm trying to find a way to describe how much I liked this. It wasn't ambitious or surprising, but it was perfectly, perfectly executed.

The plot is all telegraphed in the trailer. Heck, you can get it all from the logline. Doesn't matter. Still great.

That review above, the one about this being an Amblin horror film? Pretty much dead on. This is a movie about kids trying to care for each other in a world where adults are between useless and dangerous.

Setting this in the 1970's was ideal, for several reasons. It was peak "Some bad man in a van is gonna grab you!" The grainy aesthetic of the kidnapping scenes made them like something out a Gen X kid's nightmares. It was also part of the era where kids fighting and being violent to each other was still normalized, which is important to the story.

Really, this is like the perfectly executed, stripped down, fat free version of IT.

Hawke is great as the Grabber. My kid noted that it felt like every sentence he spoke came out of a different voice. And the sibling relationship was about as convincing of one I have seen onscreen in quite some time.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:42 AM on June 24, 2022 [7 favorites]

I just watched this on Peacock, I agree on how good/satisfying a watch it is.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:51 PM on October 5, 2022

Just watched this tonight. It was very good. I kept thinking how Finn's life was so horrifying -- his mother's suicide, his drunken, violent dad, getting beaten up by other boys, his friends disappearing one by one, being abducted himself -- that talking to/seeing mutilated ghosts was the thing that freaked him out the least.
posted by orange swan at 7:55 PM on October 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

this being an Amblin horror film

this is like the perfectly executed, stripped down, fat free version of IT

Yeah. Joe Hill, of course, is Stephen King's son, and to me this had a lot of the "vibes" of his father's various works about children and childhood. So sort of an Amblin-once-removed; King and Spielberg have (IMO) similar approaches to creating art about their own childhoods (a sort of mix of romantic nostalgia and unpleasant truths), and this is the Gen X version of that.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:08 PM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was utterly riveted. I agree, there weren't many surprises but it was just perfectly done. I didn't entirely see where the trip wire was going when Finn was setting it up but then when it all came together, it was just perfect. Every single one of those boys' gifts was instrumental to the Grabber's demise and Finn's escape: Bruce's hole; Griffin's wire; Robin's phone weapon. Vance's freezer gave him the meat to distract the dog. Billy's combination for the lock on the door.

Also everything you all said. Wow.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:51 AM on September 26, 2023

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