Sinister trio Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill and Ethan Hawke reteam to adapt the short story from Stephen King’s son Joe Hill that will delight many fans of the horror icon’s work…..
Balloons, a child wearing a yellow raincoat while riding a bike, a bogeyman stalking young teenagers, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you are back in Derry, Maine while watching The Black Phone, only this time the balloons are black and there isn’t a clown called Pennywise hiding in the shadows.
To say this new film owes a lot to the work of Stephen King is an understatement but as this horror/thriller is adapted from a short story by the author’s son, you can see that Joe Hill has learnt a lot from the master of horror literature and with Scott Derrickson behind the camera, hopes were very high going into what should be one of the highlights of 2022.
Derrickson has become a director of horror that fans are desperate to see his work, mostly thanks to the criminally underrated Emily Rose, the huge favourite SINISTER and in case you are one of the many who thought the HELLRAISER franchise ended after the first two, he did deliver with the fifth film INFERNO, a huge PINHEAD delight with us within the corridors of HACKED 2 PIECES.
There will be an argument now between Sinister fans and this new entry in what film shines brightly on his CV as he delivers massively here in terms of well crafted scares and a simple plot that oozes quality from the moment it begins. How thankful are we over the “creative difference” issue that saw the director walk away from the Doctor Strange and MARVEL capers and into the path of this truly great film.
Its sometime in the 1970’s, we guessing either 74 or 75 as the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is referenced and there are flyers posted around a local neighbourhood of missing kids. Someone called THE GRABBER is, well you can guess by the name, is targeting the young teenagers of the town.
The plot focuses on siblings Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) and Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), a brother and sister who finds school life just as hard as their home life, with Finney in particular being bullied in school and then both have to “be quiet” and “say the right things” around their drunken father (Jeremy Davies), who is more than happy to get out his belt for a punishment or two.
When his only only friend goes missing, Finney is then also targeted by The Grabber and soon finds himself in a dingy basement that just contains a dirty mattress and a black phone on a wall, that is disconnected from service and hasn’t worked for years.
With no escape and the figure of death looming in the distance, all of a sudden the black phone starts to ring and on answering, Finney hears the voices of The Grabber’s past victims, offering help from beyond the grave. Can they bring down this mad man and what is with Gwen and her dreams?
Ethan Hawke excels as the bogeyman, his face mostly covered by a creepy mask and he really delivers in terms of bringing a much necessary threat to the plot. He doesn’t do much, but his presence is more than enough, as we along with Finney believe this man is just one angry outburst away from causing serious harm to this frightened young boy.
Thanks to the refusal of offering cheap scares, Derrickson and co build a horror where we care for the characters who in return deliver in terms of performance so we as a viewer invest in the peril and really care if Finney escapes or if Gwen can get to him on time.
Its a simple tale done right, a horror film that doesn’t rely on the gore to bring the terror and with Hawke leading the way as a frightening force, The Black Phone is the one horror film of this year that if you hear ringing, you’ll want to answer…..