The Black Phone
It's for you... ☎️
Welcome to Pop ‘n’ Pizza, a weekly newsletter highlighting what’s new in pop culture and pulp fiction. This week, I’m answering the call coming from THE BLACK PHONE. 🍕🥤
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Release Date: June 24, 2022
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Production Company: Blumhouse
Studio: Universal Pictures
Behind the Scenes
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill
Cinematography by Brett Jutkiewicz
Music by Mark Korven
In Front of the Camera
Ethan Hawke (THE NORTHMAN, SINISTER)
Mason Thames (FOR ALL MANKIND)
Madeleine McGraw (SECRETS OF SULPHUR SPRINGS)
Jeremy Davis (SLEEPY HOLLOW, LOST)
James Ransone (IT: CHAPTER TWO, SINISTER)
Why You Should Check It Out
Written by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill (DOCTOR STRANGE, SINISTER), THE BLACK PHONE is an adaptation of the 2004 short story by Joe Hill, son of authors Tabitha and Stephen King.
It’s 1978 and in the suburban neighborhood of North Denver, quiet but clever 13-year-old Finney (Mason Thames) and his feisty younger sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) spend their homelife walking on eggshells around their alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies).
After one of his only friends goes missing, Finney encounters the man responsible — The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), a child kidnapper and serial murderer who wears a strange mask (designed by Tom Savini) and a top hat reminiscent of Lon Chaney's character from 1927’s LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT.
Finney wakes up in a soundproof basement with a black telephone mounted on the wall. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t work, at least not for the living. Finney soon realizes the phone has the eerie ability to transmit the voices of The Grabber's previous victims. The voices want to help Finney escape, but time is running out. Meanwhile, Gwen experiences psychic dreams that send her on a quest to find The Grabber’s lair.
THE BLACK PHONE feels like the B-side to Derrickson’s SINISTER. There’s haunted technology, ghostly children, grainy home video footage, not to mention Ethan Hawke and James Ransone’s involvement. And while it isn’t as scary as Derrickson’s 2012 film — it’s more of a thriller than a horror movie — it does offer up a major league creep in The Grabber who, like SINISTER’s pagan deity Bughuul, has a predilection for kidnapping and murdering children.
Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw are great as the precocious youths, but Hawke’s skin-crawling performance carries the film. His voice, body language, and ability to convey malevolence behind a mask make The Grabber an instant horror icon, even if the film he’s in isn’t a blood-soaked affair like HALLOWEEN or A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
A chilling and unsettling supernatural slow burn punctuated by the occasional jump scare, with atmospheric cinematography by Brett Jutkiewicz (STRANGER THINGS) and a dread-inducing score by Mark Korven (THE WITCH), THE BLACK PHONE is definitely worth answering.
There’s a rumor going around that Blumhouse is acquiring the rights to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and if so, I could totally see Derrickson being a name they’d like to attach to that project.
Having worked on horror films like THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, SINISTER, and DELIVER US FROM EVIL, and reality-bending computer-generated spectacles like DOCTOR STRANGE, Derrickson would be a good fit.
And while we’re on the subject, Ethan Hawke might just make a pretty great Freddy Krueger too…
Slices (Out of 5)
You May Also Like…
If you dig this, you may also enjoy:
20TH CENTURY GHOSTS (Barnes & Noble)
THE FIREMAN (Barnes & Noble)
STRANGE WEATHER (Barnes & Noble)
DELIVER US FROM EVIL (Amazon Prime Video)
SINISTER (Amazon Prime Video)
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