The innocence of childhood with the charm of a small country town sets the scene in a clever way by sucking you in as it unearths its dark underbelly. If you’re a fan of anything produced by Blumhouse Productions, you’ll know exactly how much this will make you jump, make you think you know what’s going on and slightly mess with your mind.
A series of children are disappearing in town, and no one is any wiser about who is taking them. Brother and sister Finney and Gwen are brought into Police investigations after they find out Gwen has been telling people about her dreams linked to previous missing children.
Gwen and Finney live with their abusive father, who beats Gwen to make her stop telling people about her visions. But when Finney goes missing, it’s the only thing she can do to save him.
The Grabber has built a soundproof room below his house where there is just a mattress and a black phone. He’s playing a game with Finney, only he doesn’t know the rules. But what The Grabber doesn’t know is Finney has help, putting a spin on The Grabbers plan.
The black phone, which isn’t connected, rings. On the other line are the voices of the children The Grabber has killed. One of them is a good friend of Finney, Robin, who stuck up for Finney and protected him when no one else would. The voices gave Finney tips on what they did to survive in the hope he can get further than they did.
The Black Phone is a simple film. It’s this that makes it so immersive for the viewer. So when there’s a jump scare, you are so involved it takes you by surprise.
The beauty or cleverness of this film is, that it’s about children. The innocence, the gentle nature and the hope children have builds a relationship with the viewer. Nothing could possibly go wrong to these kids who are just starting to live their life. From the baseball game in the opening scenes, you see friendship, romance, and smiles. The Black Phone builds up your trust in humanity and then shatters it. It’s an art mastered by Blumhouse Productions but also by Director Scott Derrickson.
Derrickson is not new to the world of horror or thriller. Some of his other Directorial efforts of the same genre are Deliver Us from Evil and Sinister. But what he is most known for is Doctor Strange. He has an interesting way of building a world around a character that the audience feels part of.
Ethan Hawke (The Northman, The Purge, Boyhood) plays the Grabber. It says a lot about an actor who can successfully play a character behind a mask. Says, even more, when they can manage to voice that character as well. Some have been fired for not being able to do exactly that (James Purefoy was replaced by Hugo Weaving in V for Vendetta).
Leading the cast is the talented Mason Thames. A name or face you might not yet know, but based on this film alone you’ll be seeing a lot more of. Thames for a large part was the only person in a scene. Sometimes the most interaction he has is a voice at the end of a phone call. He manages to hold his own and completely demand the space he fills. Thames taps into something that can be seen in his eyes. A look of being lost, afraid yet innocent and hopeful.
Overall, The Black Phone is a simple film that will make you jump. It uses the innocence of children in a small country town to suck you in, and when it spits you out, you’ll feel just as let down and vulnerable as the children being taken. Another great film from the world of Blumhouse Productions.