‘The Black Phone’ rings in some frightening scares

PHOTO: Blumhouse

“The Black Phone” is written and directed by Scott Derrickson (writer/director of “Doctor Strange” and “Sinister”) and co-written by C. Robert Cargill (co-writer of “Doctor Strange” and “Sinister”) based on the 2004 short story of the same name by Joe Hill (the son of Stephen King). The film stars Mason Thames as Finney Shaw, a shy teenager who is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victim and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney as well.

Stephen King adaptations have become some of the most iconic horror films ever made. From “The Shining” to “Carrie” to “It,” some of the top-tier horror movies have come from Stephen King’s equally as iconic novels. His son, Joe Hill, on the other hand hasn’t had that same reputation as his father. He has had some film adaptions of his novels throughout the years, most notably “Horns” and “In The Tall Grass,” but nothing on the levels of his father’s books. “The Black Phone,” however, hopefully should put Joe Hill on the map alongside his father as a horror writer because, while I haven’t read his short story, this feature film adaptation of it is absolutely fantastic.

The plot of a phone that can talk to the dead is a concept that sounds amazing but could easily fail, but thankfully the actual execution is as great as the idea itself. Scott Derrickson is a lot to thank for this in his first horror film since 2014’s “Deliver Us from Evil.” Derrickson is not a director you should ever count out, especially in the horror genre and “The Black Phone” lives up to some of his classics like “Sinister” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”

Derrickson does an excellent job with the scares and overall creepy and tense atmosphere in this film. It’s a film that primarily takes place in just one room for the majority of the second and third act, but Derrickson keeps making it interesting and scary the entire time. There’s this feeling throughout the entire movie where you feel like the killer is right around the corner every second while Finney is attempting to escape. With jump scares that are actually affective, this is a great time for horror fans in the theater.

The sound design in this film is also top-notch. Not only is the little noises from the sound-proof room itself really well done and add so much to the scares, but the way the sound designers have designed the phone is also a nice touch. Whenever Finn is talking to the victims on the phone, there are some moments where you can see the ghosts of the victims standing next to him without him knowing. The static, distant sound a classic 1970s telephone makes lining up with the mouth movements of the speaker in person is really cool to see. I’m not even sure I’m explaining it right, so you have to see it to fully understand how great it is.

Ethan Hawke (“Before Sunrise” and “First Reformed”) plays the killer known by the people in Denver, where the film is set, as “The Grabber” and of course he’s fantastic in the role. He’s really creepy and makes you feel really uncomfortable and on edge the entire movie. However, the two main child actors in this film, Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, who plays Finn’s younger sister, are the breakouts. They not only hold their own against a legend like Hawke, but they do even better. Thames has to lead this film, most of the time being on screen by himself, and he is great. He really showcases his character’s fear and makes you fully root for him. McGraw was my personal favorite. She is the perfect amount of sassy and sweet. She is able to balance her more dramatic elements while also being really funny (there’s a lot of really well done comedy in this movie) and brings most of the laughs in the movie.

“The Black Phone” is yet another great horror film from Scott Derrickson and will hopefully be the first of many great horror adaptations from Joe Hill’s novels. It’s a must watch for all horror fans. “The Black Phone” is currently in theaters.

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