The Black Phone horror film was developed in 1978, and the setting is largely intentional. It is an excuse for filmmaker Scott Derrickson to utilize the same kind of blaring 1970s needle-drops in this case, as well as the nostalgic sounds of The Edgar Winter Group, Pink Floyd, Sweet, and Chic, as seen in Warner Bros'' Stephen Kings It recently. It also gives realism to the gloomy scene in which kids mercilessly bully and beat the snot out of each other, with no fear
The late 70s were not the peak time for serial killings in the United States. (That didn''t happen until the mid-80s.) But a few high-profile instances did break during the era, and the results of televised murder trials and an increase in overall crime rates helped alleviate this worry. 1978 was also the first time when unsupervised kids were dragged into unmarked vans.
The Black Phone, based on a short story by Locke & Key and NOS4A2 author Joe Hill, is aware of this concern early on, with large shots of vans lurking behind gaggles of kids walking home from school alongside close-ups of missing-children flyers on community bulletin boards. Siblings Finney (Mason Thames) and Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) are well aware of the rumors behind those disappearances, attributed to a local
Everyone who says The Grabber''s name will be punished. Finney believes that myth, which opens him up to mockery from his younger sister Gwen. However, his fears are justified. First, his best and only friend, Robin (Miguel Cazarez Mora), who enjoys horror movies, falls victim to The Grabber (Ethan Hawke, fresh off a different villain run in the MCU series Moon Knight), and he wakes up on a dirty mattress in a concrete cell in their low-
The Grabbers'' basement is mostly where Hills'' original story is presented. Finney communicates with the five previous victims'' disembodied voices through the black phone of the title. (The cord has been cut, but the phone still rings. Spooky!) Each of these men attempts to escape The Grabber in his own way, and each of them offers him tips on how to survive where they couldnt. As one boy says, If you dont play, he cant win.
The Black Phone is a funny way to describe how quickly people shoot overhead while searching for children who are already dead. In this film, parents are addicted or absent, but all their best indications come from Gwens prophetic dreams. (Joe Hill is Stephen Kings'' son.)
Outside of the feeling of morbid inevitability, The Black Phone is a mess. The performances, which range from puzzling to overly fearful. Jeremy Davies is also too all over the place to read as credibly frightening: What he does as he signs up, and how does it fit into his psychosis? It''s no surprise that the film will feature the first and last time that character detail will arise.
Hawke excels in imaginative growth but without making difficult musical performances unnerving. (Think James McAvoy, throwing himself into his multiple roles in Split, for example.) An intense vocal performance certainly would have helped The Grabber and his twisted game of naughty boy recover gasps instead of chortling.
The Black Phones tonal issues are becoming more common outside of the basement. The film isn''t as unsatisfactory as the infamous Angel of the Morning vomiting-leper sequence in It: Chapter Two, but the films differ from other components in comedy and horror. Add jump scares that do little more than add visual interest to repetitive scenes of Finney talking on the phone in an empty room, and The Black Phone manages to preserve everything that made the Hills short story so creepy and undermine it at the same time
The Black Phone is now available in theaters on June 24.
A weekly breakdown of Polygon''s finest things.
Please verify your email to receive a confirmation email, and follow the steps to confirm your human being.