Blumhouse Productions have been around since 2009 and have made a name for themselves as the Hollywood go-to studio if you wanted to film decent sized budget horror movie. They have produced 85 films to date and, full disclosure, I have not been a fan of most of them. They generally tend to be too generic or sanitized for my tastes. They have produced some great movies, but they are few and far between in my opinion. When I heard they got the rights to Joe Hill’s 2004 short story Black Phone, I was a little disappointed. My disappointment eased a bit when I saw that C. Robert Cargill was writing the script and Scott Derrickson was going to direct (both from Sinister 2012).
The story is simple yet unique; Set in 1978, The Black Phone follows Finney Shaw and his little sister Gwen. There is a rash of child abductions in their city by a burgeoning serial killer named The Grabber. He drives around town in a black van and abducts these kids and takes them back to his basement for some one on one time (no spoilers, but it doesn’t end well for the kids). He abducts Finn thinking he will just be another name on his list of victims, but while Finn is locked up in the basement, a long disconnected phone starts ringing and the voices of The Grabber’s former victims are on the other line. Various victims give Finn tips on how to survive and escape. While this is going on, Gwen tries to get the police to listen to her because she is having visions of the Grabber’s lair.
Not to be too cliché, but it’s a race against time to see if Gwen can save her brother’s life. Growing up with an alcoholic father has made Finn and Gwen tougher than your average teen. Gwen has some hilarious come backs at the police who don’t believe her about her psychic visions. But this is far from a comedy. This is a dark ass movie, and I ain’t talking about the lighting. Some scenes I was totally not expecting to see in a “Hollywood” type movie.
Ethan Hawke plays The Grabber and, my God, he is disturbing as hell! Wearing various masks throughout the movie, he delivers a truly creep inducing performance. Mason Thames plays Finn who is amazing in the main role as the Grabber’s newest victim. Madeleine McGraw plays Gwen (Finn’s sister) and she is great! I should say, I have never been a fan of child actors in horror movies. It, the movie from 2017 would be the exception… those actors were phenomenal. Finn, Gwen, and really all the other kids that populate this story are awesome. A horror movie only works if you care about the main characters and, I got to say, this one totally worked for me.
The only critique from me would be I would have liked to learn more about The Grabber’s former victims before Finn’s storyline started, but it’s understandable why it wasn’t included. Great cast, very tight script, awesome cinematography and the sound design was uber creepy. I highly recommend The Black Phone! GRADE: A