“The Black Phone” a new horror classic


Recently, horror movies have been coming out like hotcakes, but only some of them caught my eye. “The Black Phone,” released on June 24, 2022, was one of them.

“The Black Phone” is a horror/thriller that’s set in 1978 based on a Joe Hill story. It follows the character Finney, a shy and vulnerable boy, who frequently gets bullied at school. His sister (Gwen) and friend (Robin), are his only outlets. The town has been under immense distress because of the disappearances of young boys around the town, including the disappearance of his friend Robin. The one thing that the cops find at each spot of the crime scene are black balloons. As Finney walks home from school one day, he runs into a strange man, but it doesn’t take him long to realize it was too late and he was now a victim of the one and only, “The Grabber.” Waking up in a strange cement room with little to no escape routes, Finney’s only hope is a disconnected black phone hanging on the wall, with past victims communicating on the other line, and his sister who has vivid dreams of The Grabber’s attacks and whereabouts. Warning for readers: this review will have spoilers so turn away now and come back later if you haven’t watched. 

The first thing I would like to recognize is the fresh face on the screen, Mason Thames. I thought he did an incredible job, especially for being so young and this being his first big role. I genuinely appreciate seeing new actors hit the screen because then I feel like the viewer can fully experience the story that is being told without being blinded by star-power. You never think something will happen until it’s you. Thames’ emotion through Finney really showed that his character was shocked, frozen with fear. I imagine this is what it would realistically be like for someone in that situation. Not only applying to scenes with The Grabber but also with his vanquished relationship with his father. The thing about this movie that is so striking yet tame is the fact that everything that happens for the most part is grounded. The foundation of the movie feels so realistic like an actual story about someone who could truly be real. For the audience that could make it all the more emotional. 

 On the other hand, Ethan Hawke sent a chill down my spine with his rendition of The Grabber. From the way that he spoke to his posture. In one interview, Hawke describes working with Scott Derrickson in the past saying, “You know working with Scott Derrickson..um..I was interested before just to get an email from him that I was on his mind to maybe collaborate with again..um…Sinister was a special was a special movie in my career it was really challenging performance…it kind of awaken my love of genre movies..I don’t really like playing villains I don’t really like inviting that kind of evil into my imagination…but I read this script and it was so beautiful the kids journey was so beautiful and I could kind of see how this might be something new and different for me and I could contribute in a different kind of way.” A detail that I noticed about The Grabber I personally thought was incredibly scary was how the mask facial expressions would change depending on what the grabber’s intentions were, for instance how The Grabber had a frown when he waited atop the stairs for Finney. The acting in this movie was truly striking to me, and I think what made Hawke’s performance so good and frightening was the fact that The Grabber is and could be a real person. 

Relating back to what Hawke said about Finney’s story and how he grows as a character, as scary as the plot was, it really warmed my heart to see him progress into a more confident and content person. I really liked the comparison of Finney in the beginning walking through the hallway being a “nobody,” but after his experience being able to break through and have confidence in himself.  The scene that spoke out to me was at the end when Finney reunites with his father. I think in that moment his father realized that he needed to be there for his children because they were all each other had, and drinking and mourning over the loss of his wife was not going to ever give closure. Not only for him, but for his children suffering from his aggression. I would at least hope to infer that he accepts Gwen for her gift with dreams even though that is what he thinks destroyed his wife. 

One thing I noticed about “The Black Phone” was its similar cinematography to “Sinister,” another great Scott Derickson film. When certain scenes would cut to a film effect I instantly got chills because it reminded me of those “Sinister scenes.” The scenes with the film were so paralyzing because you want to help the kids so badly but there is nothing you can do. I connected the fuzzy static sound to when you are in a dream and you’re screaming but no one can hear you. A jump scare I thought was well done that had amazing cinematography was when Finney was on the phone talking to a previous victim when he shines his rocket flashlight in the corner of a room to be met with the victim on the other line levitating off the floor. This was one of the best scares I’ve had in awhile and the way the camera followed the flashlight and then spotlighted the victim was frightening. 

I would give “The Black Phone” a 5 out of 5. It felt like a story not just a movie and the entire time I was rooting for the characters. I thought this movie taught a really good lesson to not take life for granted and to not underestimate yourself because you’re more powerful than you might think, all you need is confidence. Another reason why I enjoyed this so much is because it reminded me of “The Haunting Hour” and “Goosebumps” if it was more mature. This is without a doubt a new horror movie classic in the books. I wouldn’t even be opposed to a prequel about the grabber in the future.