Horror Hour: Episode 3

Jaeden Capito reviews the horror/thriller film “The Black Phone.”


By Jaeden Capito

“The Black Phone” is a more recent movie added to the horror genre, directed by Scott Derrickson, and is an adaptation of the 2004 story of a similar name, written by Joe Hill. Played by Ethan Hawke, the Grabber is a serial kidnapper, stealing kids from their homes and keeping them in his soundproof basement, and eventually killing them. This is no different for 13-year-old Finney, played by Mason Thames, who, when walking home from school, is captured by the Grabber and taken to his basement. Throughout the course of multiple days, Finney tries multiple ways to get out of the basement through a mysterious ringing phone that houses the ghosts of the Grabber’s past victims, bent on revenge against the man who killed them.

Although around half of the movie takes place in the basement of the Grabber, the movie still provides an interesting storyline that involves ghosts, mysterious dreams, and somewhat interesting plot twists. One of the more focused-on characters, Finney’s sister, has a mysterious power where she can see flashbacks of the past victims that were killed, allowing her to find the house where her brother is being held. This plot point is never really built on throughout the movie and is more of an unfinished mystery that the movie just drops and does not explain.

The mysterious Grabber wears a mask in most of his appearances, with three variations of a smile, frown, and blank face, like the classic drama masks. These masks change the emotion that the Grabber portrays in his scenes. One of the many deranged things the Grabber does with his victims is a ritualistic game where he tempts the kids to leave the basement and allows him to validate his use of violence against them, beating them with a belt until they pass out. Other variations of his mask include just the top half of the mask, allowing the Grabber’s true expression to be seen, or in a crucial scene in the movie, just the bottom piece, creating an unsettling tone as he threatens to seriously harm Finney.

Evidently, “The Black Phone” is about the Grabber’s guilt that takes form in the spirits of his past victims. It is revealed in the movie that the Grabber can hear the Black Phone along with Finney, but he says it is just an electrical error and refuses to acknowledge the others he has killed. His neglect toward the ringing displays his knowledge of his guilt, as well as his own self-humiliation for the sins he has committed, as well as his inability to stop himself. Along with his blatant omission of the ringing from his mind, the mask could also be used as another way to shield himself from his guilt and is more of a tool to hide his shame, rather than his identity, deviating from classic horror films where masks are used to create a mystery around the identity of the killer. 

Overall, “The Black Phone” is a pretty good movie that ends up being more of a suspenseful thriller movie rather than a classic horror, but there are still a few scares that will keep viewers at the edge of their seats and waiting for what will come next. All of the actors in the movie deliver a solid performance in their roles, namely Ethan Hawke’s Grabber and Mason Thames’ Finney. Although the lack of exploration of some characters could cause some audiences to dislike the movie more, the overall production and the cast alone are able to make up for its faults, making it a substantial film that will be a good watch for many people to come.