The Black phone (2021)

The Black phone (2021)

Movie Details

Movie: The Black phone (2021)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw and Ethan Hawke
Genres: Horror/Mystery
Release date: 24 June 2022
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
Languages: English
Duration: 1h 42m


The Black phone (2021)


Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill worked with Scott Derrickson already on the first part of the horror film Sinister and Doctor Strange, and he was willing to wait until Derrickson’s duties on the Doctor Strange sequel ended with the realization of The Black Phone. It ended up happening a little sooner than everyone expected, reportedly due to creative disagreements. Derrickson dropped out of the multiverse of madness, and Sam Raimi ended up finishing the work in progress. Thanks to this, however work could begin on the adaptation of a short horror story by Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, by the way. Judging by the number of awards, Hill stumbled as Derrickson and Cargill saw in at least one short story the potential for a feature film. However, as is often the case in similar cases, the simple premise could not be fully developed satisfactorily into a full-length feature.

The narrative goes back to the end of the 70s, which is exceptionally not just the result of a commercial calculation relying on the fetishization of retro products. The central role in the story is played by a black telephone, which today’s youth might not know how to handle. A landline attached to the wall can communicate with the afterlife, as a young boy Finney (Mason Thames) learns after he is kidnapped by the terror of the Denver suburbs, nicknamed the Grabber. He has recently been responsible for the disappearance of several children, so he is spreading terror among the high school community.

Despite relatively frequent kidnappings in the area, however, the police, the school, the parents, and the children themselves do not take any non-standard measures, which is quite unlikely, but at the same time it intensifies the necessity of the conditions these children face. Very often there is violence between them, the right of the stronger clearly applies, and it is not a matter of course to calmly wait out the journey from school. As depicted in the example of Finney and his younger sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), even the family background does not ease this situation, and due to the incapacity (or complete absence) of adults, the children have to take care of themselves. It must be added that both main child actors manage their roles with complete clarity, especially McGraw as in a natural way and at the same time smart Gwen steals the viewer’s attention.

The menacing Raptor is played by Ethan Hawke, which is nicely highlighted in the promotional materials, but most of the time he is hidden under a mask, which, although he constantly changes, rarely takes off. The particularly rough version of the mask, is appropriately sold on the poster as well.

Perhaps this is also why he makes mistakes more than once, and an experienced jailer would only shake his head in incomprehension at the construction of the castle in which the kidnapped victims are kept. However, realism recedes even more significantly in the case of that crucial black phone, whose unexpected usefulness motivates Finney to make more and more attempts at a seemingly impossible escape, during which the audience is occasionally reminded of MacGyver. However, it is precisely in these passages that the film drags on disproportionately, and a good half hour of the boy’s efforts could be cut into a brisk collage without losing its meaning. Here, then, the lack of material in the original draft is most clearly manifested, with which Derrickson and Cargill could not cope much.

The mixture of realism and supernatural elements contributes to a disturbing horror atmosphere. It has an interesting climax which acquires an attractive psychoanalytical symbolism. In addition, it could also be another of the relatively eye-catching reminders that unknown people on the street represent a non-negligible danger for school-aged children. As a purely spectator spectacle and a relaxing horror film, it also works as much worse.

Although The Black Phone premiered at a smaller Texas festival last September, it was officially released in American cinemas only a few weeks ago due to several delays. Not long after, however, it earned five times its relatively modest budget, and it is already another of the successes of the Blumhouse production company.

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