The Black Phone (Scott Derrickson, 2022)

Indiefferential Film Reviews

After being abducted by a child killer and locked in a soundproof basement, a 13-year-old boy starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer's previous victims.

The horror movie "The Black Phone" is based on Joe Hill's short tale of the same name. It stars Ethan Hawke and its intriguing idea works well, and the cast gives good performances.

Even while Joe Hill, the author, may not be well-known to most people, everyone almost certainly is aware of his father, Stephen King. Following in his illustrious father's literary footsteps, Hill is steadily creating a reputation for himself with works like "Heart-Shaped Box" and "Horns," which are both causing a stir among fans of horror literature. Hill has had relatively few additional adaptations of his work that are noteworthy other from the modestly popular TV series "Locke & Key," which is based on a collection of comic books he authored. Hill now has an adaptation that may be regarded as a real turning point in his writing career with 2022's "The Black Phone."

Hill's storytelling style, like that of his father before him, successfully blends the two genres to produce a work that stands out from the majority of other films of a same nature. Our main characters' upbringing and the kinds of individuals they are exposed to help us understand them better. For instance, Finney offers Gwen encouragement as an elder sibling because the latter is frequently abused by her alcoholic father. Finney has good intentions, but he never quite has the guts to confront injustice on his own; instead, he depends on others to take action on his behalf.

Every one of the Stephen King cliches were being thrown about. The tiny town setting, the bullies at school bullying the protagonist, the insecure alcoholic dad, the young child with inexplicable magical talents, the subtly slighting of Christianity, and even the subtle slighting of Christianity are all extensively employed here. The only difference that stood out was that the narrative is set in Colorado rather than Maine (I guess that would have been too obvious). I see that Hill has drawn a lot of inspiration from his father's work, which is OK, but if he wants to develop his own personality, he must do a lot more to develop something special that won't be mistaken for anything else.

Little is revealed to the audience about The Grabber's objectives beyond kidnapping children and holding them hostage for a lengthy period of time. This is effective because, despite it being clear that he has evil intents, we never really get to see how horrible things may really go for someone like poor Finney. Instead, through the phone calls Finney gets, we are shown snippets of what The Grabber is actually capable of, allowing the spectator to use their imagination to fill in the blanks as to what horrors have been done.



With its well-developed characters and intriguing premise, "The Black Phone" is exactly as engaging as any Stephen King-inspired story should be as both a horror movie and a coming-of-age movie. In the future, I only hope Joe Hill finds a way to set himself apart more by producing work that is a little more unique and doesn't seem to heavily reference his father. The movie nevertheless works as a reliable treat for horror aficionados in need of a fast hit if you're prepared to look past its overdone cliches.

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