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Film Review: “The Black Phone” (2022)


Rating: 4 out of 5.

The biggest fear of any parent is the loss of their child, whether that loss is due to a car accident, sickness or events such as shootings. In those cases, fate is known and we are left with grief alone. But what happens if a child is kidnapped, the police are helpless, and the public is unable to help? What happens then when the child is locked somewhere in a basement, waiting for the moment that will be their last time seeing the light of day?

“The Black Phone” is the most impactful film from Blumhouse delivered to date. Set in Denver, CO, in 1978, it follows a young boy named Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), who becomes the next victim of a child kidnapper and the serial killer, “The Grabber” (Ethan Hawke). When the boy is locked in a soundproofed basement while he awaits The Grabber’s next move. But the non-working black phone hanging on the wall proves to change the course of Finney’s life and The Grabber’s who realizes this time he has a victim who is able to challenge him.

The show-stealer of the film is Madeleine McGraw, playing Gwen Shaw, Finney’s sister. She has dreams that are meant to come true. In fact, she even realized that one of the students from school might be the next one to disappear, therefore, the police comes to question her. Her father, Terrence (Jeremy Davies) is not pleased about it, so he punishes her by beating Gwen with his belt. It’s only later on that we realize why he is like that – in grief, sadness and anger. Even though that does not justify his violent and abusive actions towards his children, you will still sympathise with him more.

The screenplay from Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill and directed by Scott Derrickson himself, it’s based on the 2004 short story of the same name by Joe Hill. The concept is great, impactful and very intellectual. In fact, the supernatural premise of it is absolutely astounding and the film itself is simply fantastic, to describe in short. There are a few scenes that are quite remarkable yet scary. But then you get used to it. Because you are so absorbed by it, you no longer feel that you are in a theater.

For instance, there are a few prominent characters you will root for right from the moment you are introduced to them: Bruce Yamada (Tristan Pravong), the Grabber’s victim; Robin Arellano (Miguel Cazarez Mora), the boy who stood for Finnley when he was bullied and the same boy who becomes another victim of the Grabber. Yet the most shocking and unforgettable scene is the one that both boys share together – when Robin teaches Finney how to fight for his life as a ghost through the black phone.

The reason why “The Black Phone” works is because it’s shot from the point of view of the victim, how he tries to find a way to escape, and how he communicates with the Grabber’s previous victims. Those scenes are worthwhile seeing as many times as you want. All of them are chilling, intense, disturbing and thought-provoking. It will make you feel for those who were kidnapped and never found alive. It’s, unfortunately, a sad take on children that were taken; children that never made it back home. And those who made it back, live with the trauma they must endure for the rest of their lives.

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