I genuinely believe that the Sinister movies are some of the most unsettling horror flicks to come out in the last decade. With that, I was pumped to learn that Scott Derrickson would be returning to the horror world after dropping out of Doctor Strange 2. The Black Phone is his newest movie, and follows the story of a kid who’s the latest in a string of kidnappings in his small town.
The Black Phone does a great job at taking its time setting up the world and life of our main characters. We get a good sense of the lives of Finney and Gwen before everything goes to shit. Speaking of, I have to give a shoutout to Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, who play Finney and Gwen, respectively. Their relationship is the beating heart of the movie, and I couldn’t help but root for them both.
The Black Phone delivers as a creepy thriller, and so much of that is thanks to Ethan Hawke as The Grabber. The character is very playful, frequently speaking in a childlike voice and speaking very matter-of-factly. However, he’s absolutely unhinged and flips the switch in a heartbeat. It’s straight up disturbing when Hawke goes into psycho mode.
Scott Derrickson of course brings his excellent writing and directing skills to The Black Phone, and the movie is better for it. The script does a great job at keeping players out of the loop when it comes to The Grabber’s identity and location. It kept me guessing alongside the characters as they raced to find him in time, a solid mystery to pair with the horror of it all. There are also some great visuals, particularly in The Grabber’s dungeon.
There is a supernatural element to The Black Phone that I found pretty interesting. While it added a pretty cool layer to Finney’s character development, there were some aspects of it that I wish were more fleshed out. That said, it probably would have hurt the film if it stopped in its tracks to explain every little detail, so I’m not mad about it, but I could see some people leaving with questions.
The Black Phone is a superb thriller from one of the genre’s strongest directors/writers. It’s an easy thumbs up and recommendation from me. It’s currently only in theaters, but with Paramount’s 45 days of theater exclusivity, you can expect it to be on streaming/VOD in early August.