The Black Phone [Grade: 83.75%]

Director: Scott Derrickson

Story By: Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill (adapted from Joe Hill)

Cast: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, James Ransom, & Miguel Cazarez Mora

* * *

This film definitely lives up to its PR hype. 

* * *

Theme & Story: A-

Pacing: A

Character: B

Overall “Paper” Score: A-

* * *

Entertainment Factors

General Public: Worth the $$$

Film Enthusiasts: Don’t Rush

Experience Seekers (via Visuals & Score): Don’t Rush

Horror/Thriller Fans: Interesting Enough

Overall “Viewing Experience” Score: Interesting Enough / Wait for Streaming

* * *


1. Young boys are going missing in a Denver neighborhood with the only leads being black balloons and a little girl. 

This is The Black Phone.

Thematically, this film did a really great job tackling the line between discipline and [child] abuse, stereotypes of “boyhood,” the spirit and free nature of being a child, and different representations of strength/toughness. 

Act One did a lot of solid things for me. It kicked off by laying down the free nature and spirit of just being a child, which aided in my connection to our main characters; and it provided multiple conflicts being faced by our main character all connected to abuse, discipline, and the idea of “boyhood” while also providing some rather clear, yet subtle foreshadowing of our poster villain. 

All in all, the vision and direction of the film felt super established. 

Act Two continued with showcasing that spirit and nature of being a child, except in a context of helplessness which happened to also tap into a display of strength with our main character who is now in interaction with our poster villain. 

Act Three was chilling! My goodness. We get an understanding of the antagonist’s motivation which was clearly aligned to both ideas of abuse/discipline and stereotypes of boyhood. The highlight of this Act is what I interpreted as this thrilling symbolism of the phone with that spirit of childhood. This act also perfectly brings the idea of strength/toughness full circle. My only issue with Act Three is that I would’ve wanted a little more rationale behind our antagonist’s motivation. There was enough to pretty much have a suspension of disbelief, or even make a pretty direct assumption based on Act One and other aspects of the theme, but I would’ve have wanted to see just a glimpse or moment of Hawke’s character having a mentally disturbing flashback of some sort. 

But ultimately, this was a solid execution of themes and overall story telling. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

2. For some reason, I was really drawn to the overall cinematography. There were some really smart and intentional choices made. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

3. I loved the use of the mask! It added an eeriness that I wasn’t expecting. 👍🏾👍🏾

4. To piggyback off point #2, what really stood out was how the focus lighting on Finn’s family changed from Act One to Act Three. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

5. With a runtime of 92 minutes, this film is paced quite well for your nerves. There was one moment where I was like, “Sooo… when is the “thing” gonna happen”, and right when I started to feel that way, it happened. So it feels like the pacing was customized for the audience experience. 👍🏾👍🏾

6. That was a nice twist of sorts… 👍🏾👍🏾

7. That prayer scene… 😂😂

8. I loved the use of the black phone. 👍🏾👍🏾

9. Now how did he get in the van THAT fast? 🤔🤔

10. Mason Thames was such a great young star to follow with this film, and he was a great representation of the themes–especially the many layers of the childhood nature and spirit, and the impact of abuse on his personal feelings about his strength and toughness. The moment that truly stood out for me was when he succumbs to what he perceives to be the last option, and he finally cries. 

Ethan Hawke was subtle, and yet still uncomfortable and eery. His character was a little too flat for me, though, and I think there could’ve been more depth added to his character by simply including insight to his own traumas that may have led to his actions vs leaving it up for interpretation. 

Jeremy Davies’ character was one who surprisingly did a great job following through on themes of abuse and strength/toughness in a familial context. Across the acts, I watched a character who went through a transformation after being someone who definitely came off as a character who was going to be an added problem throughout. 

Madeleine McGraw embodied the free nature and spirit of childhood in a way that was perfect for the genre. There was a thin line between her truths and what could/would also be assumed to be a rather “dark” imagination.👍🏾👍🏾

* * *

Overall #TheBlackPhone gives It – meets Last Night In Soho – meets Enough – meets Sixth Sense – meets Saw 

Personally, I enjoyed this film. I will admit, something did feel quite “safe’ for it to be rated R—almost as if they were trying to be mindful that children were around and the core of the film?? I don’t know. I just feel like if this was a 1980s thriller, more risks would’ve been taken. BUT… But… that didn’t take away from me appreciating the overall end product, though it could for some others.

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