Black Phone (2022) – An edge of your seat horror

Poster of the movie Black Phone starring Ethan Hawke. Used for display purposes under the fair use act.

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

Starring: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGrawJeremy DaviesJames Ransone, and Ethan Hawke

Synopsis: Finney Shaw is a shy, but clever, 13-year-old boy who’s being held in a soundproof basement by a sadistic, masked killer. When a disconnected phone on the wall starts to ring, he soon discovers that he can hear the voices of the murderer’s previous victims — and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.

Poster of the movie Black Phone. Its shows Ethan Hawke's character in a mask. The image is for display purposes under the fair use act.

Blumhouse does it again

Black Phone is the latest fear-invoking release from Blumhouse, giving enough suspense to give you nightmares. The multilayered characters give trauma, humour, bravery, and weakness. They give us a damn show. Words can’t do this film justice, but to summarise: the big bad ‘Grabber’ preys on a small town’s children. And when he grabs them, and trust me- he does, the madman leaves nothing but a sickening bouquet of black balloons to send the community into a frenzy. But when the Grabber takes Finney Shaw, us viewers really get a sense of the hysteria. We come to know Finney-we feel protective-and so, there’s nothing we can do but sit tight and root for his kickass little sis to save the day.

70s vibes

Set in the era of corduroy trousers, circular glasses, and ponchos with funky patterns, we really get a feel for the 70s. The sets and costume designs are on-point (we even have the school’s tough guys in sleeveless vests, bandanas, and sporting mullets and perms) and the kids actually ride bikes, like, they get fresh air… outside. The most they resemble the YouTubing, binge-watching, zombie kids of today is watching good-old cartoons on a hefty electronic box, rather than those 4K flat masterpieces we have now. Oh, and for all the 70s movie fans here, there’s a subtle nod to the classics, Enter The Dragon and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a cool homage to get the appreciation thread talking.

Two little stars

Black Phone has a lot of fantastic elements but the best has to be the acting, which for me, is unusual in a thriller/horror. The two leads, Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, who are only fifteen and thirteen years old, respectively, play a not-so-typical brother and sister duo. Big brother, Finney, tends to get stepped on at school and little sister, Gwen, comes at anyone who even looks at him funny with a sharp right fist (and some unexpected verbal abuse to catch us off guard). It’s safe to say, these two little stars carry this movie and they deserve a promising career in their future. They know how to engage an audience, and they have us feeling every emotion that Finney and Gwen feel, too. They could squeeze emotion out of a rock- I’ll put it that way.

Ethan Hawke is menacing, too. His disturbing take as ‘The Grabber’ is bone-chilling. He delivers the right amount of creepiness to haunt you from here, onwards. Up-and-coming actor, Miguel Cazarez Mora, plays Finney’s friend and tough guy, Robin, who takes our Finney under his wing. Mark my words, Robin will become an instant favourite amongst fans – Miguel did a superb job bringing Robin to life.

The right direction

Director, Scott Derrickson, nails the horror and suspense elements, perfectly, but balances it out with a sprinkling of humour throughout. It will only bring a smile to your face momentarily, though, of course. Black Phone doesn’t overly opt for the typical jump scares but instead, Derrickson creates an unnerving atmosphere where the audience end up scaring themselves.

He doesn’t have to be invincible

Derrickson created a haunting character with a menacing reputation- a man who takes innocent children. We are bluntly reminded in this scary movie that some monsters are, in fact, human. The Grabber is the worst thing to happen to this working class community where every kid is, already in some ways, battered and bruised. Derrickson didn’t need go down the path of creating some make-believe, invincible killer- like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees– he knew how to play on that sense of realism by creating a sick and demented man so that we’re all looking over our shoulders.

So, what’s this I hear about a black phone?

When Finney is abducted, he is locked up with nothing but a dirty mattress and a black, rotary telephone, disconnected and barely holding on to the dingy wall. But, I’m sure you have guessed it… the phone begins to ring. When Finney answers, he hears some familiar voices guiding him to make the great escape. Meanwhile, his sister Gwen tries to find him in her own unusual way, too. She accepts her abilities as a young clairvoyant, likeable to Vera Farmiga‘s character ‘Lorraine Warren’ in The Conjuring movies- but, will she find him?

You’re going to have to stand up for yourself one of these days” – Robin

Black Phone delves into your deepest, darkest fears: the trauma of being powerless, the sadness of being alone, and the torture of being trapped; yet it gives us hope that, sometimes, you’re just going to have to stand up for yourself. An undeniably respectable movie in the horror and thriller genres, with fantastic acting, a nerve-wrecking story, and a blood-chilling man-ster.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

by Rachel Turner