The Black Phone (a quick review)
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a horror movie in the theaters. How long ago was that? The last one was The Woman in Black. Yep, I don’t get out much. So, when I got invited to see The Black Phone this past weekend, I figured “why not”. I’ve been hearing good things about it and the concept looked interesting.
Boy, am I glad I went.
The Black Phone is an indie film directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister and Doctor Strange) that had a limited release in 2021 and finally got a wide release this year. The story takes place in 1978 and centers around a pair of siblings named Finney and Gwen Blake. Their small town lives in fear of an abductor called “The Grabber” who has been snatching young boys off the streets. The local police are frantic to find this kidnapper but there are no solid leads or clues indicating what happened to the victims.
One day, Finney is walking home alone when he is taken by The Grabber and thrown into a locked, soundproof basement. There’s seemingly no way to escape and very little inside the room except a mattress and a disconnected black phone mounted on the wall that The Grabber insists has never worked. However, the phone starts ringing when Finney is alone and the voices on the other end are not from this world.
Can I just say how happy I am to watch a self-contained, original film? With most movies being remakes, drawn out trilogies, or part of some “cinematic universe”, it’s nice to watch something new that doesn’t require homework to understand.
Supernatural horror is not a new concept but the way The Black Phone implements it is unique and woven in well with the serial killer plot. There are five ghosts that interact with the two child leads, who have inherited their deceased mother’s clairvoyance (though only Gwen is confirmed to have it). Finney must piece together the advice from ghosts give him in order to survive while Gwen must figure out what her dreams are trying to say so she can find him. Both kids are working with limited information and a limited time-frame which makes for some incredibly tense scenes. Some of Finney’s escape attempts had my heart pounding out of my chest.
Then we get to The Grabber himself. I’ve seen some people online complain that he doesn’t get much screen time and that we don’t know much about him. Personally, I liked this. Too many movies in general try to overexplain things to the point where all the mystery/excitement is sucked away. In my opinion, The Grabber’s lack of appearances adds to the scare factor because you have no idea what his goal is or what will trigger him. It’s like how you rarely saw Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, but his mere existence fills you with dread and when you do see him, you’re on the edge of your seat trying to figure him out. Plus, I think there’s plenty of implied details for us to get the full picture (most likely abused by his father, for example).
A few other things I’ve heard people complain about is the few humorous moments and the ending. I like the bits of humor because it provided a little breather between scares and added to the authenticity. As for the ending, while I can see why horror fans wouldn’t be too thrilled about it, I was just happy the film didn’t do that one annoying “subvert expectations” twist ending. You know, the one that half of horror films use because they think it’s clever, but it’s actually a clichéd trope that fans got sick of it twenty years ago. Yeah, that one.
Plus, after all the really depressing s*** that the characters go through, I thought the ending was deserved if a bit corny.
So, if you’re looking for a good, original horror film to take your date on so they’ll cling to your arm while you both munch on popcorn, I highly recommend The Black Phone. It’s a truly creepy romp that will stick with you, especially just before you go to sleep for the night.