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The New Face Of Fear | THE BLACK PHONE – Review

Ethan Hawke stars as a twisted, kidnapping murderer in THE BLACK PHONE | (C) Universal Pictures 2022
By Lee Romero

Ethan Hawke is terrifying in Scott Derrickson’s latest supernatural horror THE BLACK PHONE!

Cleary, Derrickson either dreams up and/or fantasizes about all things that horrify the human mind. SINISTER proved it! And as director/writer for that darkened bundle of joy, now his take on abduction took an already vile act of terror and raised the level of fear by infinity with Hawke’s portrayal of a masked madman labeled as “The Grabber” – an unwelcomed soul who may very well represent the new face of fear!

Aside from Hawke, THE BLACK PHONE also stars Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw. The story takes place in 1978, where five children go missing in a suburban Colorado town. Young baseball pitcher Finney Shaw (Thames) becomes the sixth when a serial killer, “The Grabber,” knocks him unconscious and throws him in a van. When he comes to his senses, Finney finds himself in a soundproof basement with a disconnected phone. He quickly learns of the phone’s ability to transmit the voices of the Grabber’s previous victims, who want to help him escape. Meanwhile, Finney’s sister Gwen (McGraw) experiences psychic dreams that send her on a quest to find him. But of course, none of it comes easy due to cryptic and frustrating paths of uneven footing.

First and foremost, this a hard one and isn’t for everyone. However, for me, everything about this fright flick works! I absolutely loved it! As one of my most anticipated this year, I have to say it was worth the wait. It’s tense, unhinged, psychologically disturbing, riddled with anxiety, cynically comedic at times, pretty good jumpscares, and well-executed/acted! “Supernatural abilities” aside, abduction has to be one of the most frightening experiences ever, and this piece is yet another uncomfortable display why. It’s done brilliantly in the sense of how the entire film is shot, alongside wicked layers that elevates itself as it builds up both the story and its characters. All that and a grainy, rugged ‘70s old-school horror style, THE BLACK PHONE holds its own as I think one of the best psycho-thriller-horrors of our time. And for good reason, I mean what better timeline to present a psychological horror than using a backdrop to one of the deadliest decades in American history.

The script is as harsh with its narrative as it is with its display; therefore, be ready, folks, because not only is this piece mind-boggling in a freaky way, but it’s also very violent. Prepare yourself (if you can and/or want) to endure what’s clearly no punches being pulled! There is domestic violence, bullying, alcoholism, death, etc. It comes in many forms and a lot of it follows our protagonist Finney during “good times” and bad! As one of the driving forces of the script, alongside the inevitable and dark psychic-rescue-mission, both plot and subplot mesh beautifully. There was an element to the story I felt could have surfed a much darker wave, but I can’t complain. At an hour-and-forty-two minutes, THE BLACK PHONE hijacks your psyche right from the start. It may tiptoe at first, but all the breadcrumbs it provides to keep your imagination following pays off. Quite frankly, Its opening soundtrack sets an underlying sense iof discomfort – and that’s just music!

Scott Derrickson knows horror and teaming up with Blumhouse Productions makes the experience even better. As an overall terrifying piece, much respect to Hawke once again for being the beating heart and antagonist that provided the push to make this movie move! Really glad he took the call when THE BLACK PHONE rang. 


Genre: Horror, Adaptation | Rated: R | Run Time: 1:42

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, James Ransone, E. Roger Mitchell

Directed by Scott Derrickson

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