The Black Phone Review: Horror Fans Rejoice

The Black Phone

The Black Phone reunites director Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, and Ethan Hawke with their take on Joe Hill’s 2004 short story.

Should you skip it or watch it? Read on this review to find out.

Back to Horror

Thanks to a fallout with Marvel Studios over Doctor Strange 2, Director Scott Derrickson goes back to his horror roots in an adaptation of Joe Hill’s short story, The Black Phone. The director finds himself re-teaming up with his “Sinister” colleagues, writer C. Robert Cargill and Oscar-nominated actor Ethan Hawke.

In The Black Phone, a young boy named Finney (Mason Thames) gets kidnapped by The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) and his only hope lies in talking to a disconnected rotary phone on the wall.

Mesmerizing Performances

The Black Phone faithfully adapts on its source material and gives its characters a richer backstory. This deeper insight into the characters gives the cast a better platform to showcase their acting chops. First with Ethan Hawke’s chilling take on The Grabber. In fact, the hype was at an all-time high when the first teaser revealed Hawke’s character. And dare I say, the film lives up and perhaps surpass all the intrigue.

Then, there’s Mason Thames’ portrayal of Finney whose stoic take on the protagonist is surprisingly on point. But the showstopper performance comes with Madeleine McGraw’s Gwen, Finney’s younger sister. McGraw’s take on the role is a perfect match of maturity and innocence. She definitely looks like a star-in-the-making if she isn’t already.

A Refreshing Take

Notice a trend on the movies lately? The violence, the bloodshed has been on an uptick in almost all the movie genres. It happens a lot even on TV too. And quite honestly, it gets to a point where it’s just too much. Recent horror movies show mostly the gore. Senseless violence that doesn’t necessarily progress the story. Meaningless jump-scares that virtually lead to nothing to further the plot. And in this sense, most of these movies simply fail.

In The Black Phone, there is still some form of brutality depicted. However, they feel vital to the story. The Black Phone proves that there is so much more to horror than just slaughter – that there are other ways to go about the murders without the actual killing.

Scott Derrickson shows us there is a more effective way to tell a scary story. And the most important one I think is to give your characters a real and believable narrative and that includes both the protagonists and the antagonists. Get the audience to empathize with the characters. All the slashing and killing just gets old and forgettable. The Black Phone does away with all that and succeeds in giving the genre a fresher perspective.

Skip or Watch?

Director Scott Derrickson goes back to his horror roots teaming up with frequent collaborator writer C. Robert Cargill and the result is a delight. Horror fans are sure to feast on The Black Phone with its refreshing take on a genre that lately has been plagued by meaningless jump-scares and needless gore. Horror movies don’t necessarily need to show the scary stuff to be scary. Sometimes, it could all just be in the mind and that makes it even more terrifying.


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