Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Black Phone (2022)

Streaming Service: Peacock
Movie Name/Year: The Black Phone (2022)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 1h 43min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Crooked Highway, Universal Pictures, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, B&H Film Distribution, Cinemundo, Tulip Entertainment, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures Argentina, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE), Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: Joe Hill, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Actors: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Ransone, Miguel Cazarez Mora, Tristan Pravong, Jacob Moran, Brady Hepner, Banks Repeta
Blurb from IMDb: After being abducted by a child killer and locked in a soundproof basement, a 13-year-old boy starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer's previous victims.

Selina’s Point of View:
Ethan Hawke’s (Before Sunrise, Boyhood, The Northman) decision to start taking on villain roles may very well be the smartest decision I’ve ever seen anyone make for their career.
Now, that’s not saying anything bad about the rest of his career. His movies have overwhelmingly high ratings. Even the ones disliked by critics tend to do decently with audiences. One could argue, and I often do, that audience ratings are the ones that matter most anyway. The thing is, he’s done it all by now – except villainy.
Branching out was a respectable move. When I saw him in Moon Knight (2022-), I thought he played the antagonist well, but I was still a little curious about how he would do the kind of obvious villain that he plays in The Black Phone. Being the antagonist is still kind of new for him.
All it took was one scene, and I knew to expect something incredible.
The villain in The Black Phone, played by Hawke, is the creepiest villain I’ve ever seen. He utilizes his voice and mannerisms in a way that portrays The Grabber as almost otherworldly. Even with the supernatural elements in the film, though, the antagonist comes across as human – just completely untouchable.

I want so much more of this kind of thing.
The story is based on a book by Joe Hill (Horns, NOS4A2, Locke & Key), and the more of his stuff I come across the more I find that I generally prefer his stories to his father’s. I know that’s a bit of a hot take, but Hill can write a wonderful ending. That’s a known weak spot of Stephen King’s (The Stand, It, Carrie).
Everything about The Black Phone was what I needed it to be. Even with a few conversations in the beginning feeling a little manufactured. The rest of it was so spectacular that I wouldn’t have remembered my issues from the beginning if I hadn’t made note of them. I got actual goosebumps at times. It’s score on Rotten Tomatoes, for both critics and audiences, is in the 80s and I think that’s too low.
The Black Phone is the kind of flick that I will wind up watching repeatedly until I have it memorized. In fact, I may watch it a second time today, just so I can see it again without having to take notes.
If you haven’t seen The Black Phone yet, it’s streaming exclusively on Peacock.

Cat’s Point of View:
The movies this week, so far, have been doing their best to stomp on all of my “mom feels.” They’ve given me the tingles in the small hairs at the base of my neck and the sick feeling of dread in my gut as my instincts scream at me about what’s happening on-screen. To say that The Black Phone was a creepily successful horror movie feels like a huge understatement.
I’m not sure that it would be any surprise, however, given that this was an adaptation of a short story of the same title, penned by Joe Hill. I could tout his horror pedigree, but setting genetics and the like aside, he is gifted in his own right. When paired with writer and director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil), who is said to have used this film to evoke the environment of fear that plagued his own childhood, magical things happen. It was terrifying and suspense-inducing, but magical all the same.
The blend of very real elements such as The Grabber, the titular Black Phone, and supernatural elements created a viscerally horrifying experience.

Part of that success also must be attributed to the cast. Everyone involved did a great job with their roles, though the primary trio portraying Finney, Gwen, and The Grabber really shone. Mason Thames (For All Mankind, Evel, Walker) and Madeleine McGraw (Toy Story 4, The Mandela Effect, Secrets of Sulphur Springs) had great chemistry together as siblings. They brought the audience along with them on the painful ride of their day-to-day trauma.
It’s been said that Ethan Hawke doesn’t particularly enjoy being in horror movies or playing villains. The Black Phone, of course, finds him doing exactly that. He was the perfect man behind the mask here. His body language and tone sold the set of revolving creepy face-coverings so well, that I could almost envision the mask’s mouths moving when he spoke. (Of course, it didn’t.)
Speaking of The Grabber’s masks with the varying emotions featured on them; they were designed by none other than master practical effects artist Tom Savini (Machete Kills, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, NOS4A2). He delivered those chilling faces straight from his imagination to my nightmares.
The Black Phone effortlessly captured and brought to life the fear behind parental and teacher warnings for kids to not talk to strangers, especially ones with vans. I thoroughly enjoyed this tense and terrifying experience of that nightmare and wouldn’t hesitate to inflict it on others via recommendation.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 82%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 88%
Metascore – 65%
Metacritic User Score – 7.0
IMDB Score –7.0/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

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