The Black Phone (Horror, Thriller) [Based on Short Story] (2021)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, Joe Hill (Based on Short Story by)
Stars: Mason Thames, Ethan Hawke, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies
Somewhere in a suburb of America, a child abductor nicknamed: The Grabber; lurks as children are locked in his soundproof basement to serve his deviancy.
Premiering in 2021 at Fantastic Fest, Scott Derrickson's "The Black Phone" made its way to theatres in mid-2022. Known for his work in horror with films such as "Sinister", he also directed Marvel's "Doctor Strange", producing "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" before departing due to creative differences. Previous collaborations had writer C. Robert Cargill decide to postpone the film's creation until Derrickson was released from his duties at Marvel Studios. "The Black Phone" was filmed around North Carolina and produced by Blumhouse Productions and Crooked Highway while distributed by Universal Pictures.
The quiet suburban life in Denver is rudely interrupted as several children are reported missing. While unsettled by the murders, Finney (Mason Thames) and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) attempt to carry on, struggling under their alcoholic father, with Gwen having visions much like her late mother and Finney frequently being bullied at school—existence as they know changes drastically when the latter is kidnapped by the same maniac abducting their classmates.
Together you're stronger than alone; that's a theme brought forward throughout the narrative. As teachers and counsellors seem non-existent, the capable protect the less capable. And even Finney and Gwen mention they're "caring" for their abusive and alcohol-stricken single father.
From the cold-open onwards, Derrickson manages to depict a wickedly realistic horror. With a menacing figurative shadow being The Grabbers' black van. Somewhat of an old-school approach is used as the initial kidnappings happen, seeing the van harkens back to the oranges in "The Godfather". Purely visual language is more than sufficient here to get the message across.
Mentioning the artistic interpretations, "The Black Phone" is narratively more-so reminiscent of TV-series such as "Dark" and even "Stranger Things". Creative vision is established through canters of visual effects, and supernatural elements take the same approach, oppressively yet not overbearingly spread throughout Finney's confinement. Without providing the most elaborate horror, there's a sense of alluring comfort within Derrickson's feature, exponentially improved further by the understated performances.
Without much studio marketing encouragement, I've been looking forward to seeing "The Black Phone", and Blumhouse Productions might've turned a positive leaf. An air of change propels this motion picture forward, only temporary stiff gusts making Derrickson trip on occasion throughout the running time.
Pick up the phone!