Don Reviews "The Black Phone"
Before the Internet took over, there were a lot of syndicated film review TV shows with the most popular being “At the Movies”. Close to the end of its run in 2005, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper reviewed the film “The Devil’s Rejects” both giving it their “Thumbs Up” rating, which I completely agreed with. During that review, Ebert said “I don’t want anyone watching this show and writing in saying we gave it two thumbs up, so they went to see it and it was disgusting”. There were still some who did just that, but that is part of being a critic. This is kind of how I feel about this week’s film review.
“The Black Phone” is the latest film directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and stars Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies & Miguel Cazarez Mora. It’s 1978 in Colorado and a young teen named Finney (Thames) and his younger sister Gwen (McGraw) are having a tough childhood after their mother has passed they are stuck living with their abusive and alcohol father, Terrence (Davies). Finney is very intelligent, but this gets him bullied a lot at his school. As they are dealing with being adolescents, they are also dealing with an unknown person dubbed “The Grabber” (Hawke) who has already abducted five children in their area. Gwen is contacted by the police after it is discovered that she has a gift where her dreams begin to give clues about the past abductions. After Finney is abducted and locked into The Grabber’s soundproof basement, he discovers an old black telephone that has been disconnected and as the phone starts ringing one night Finney finds out that it appears to be the spirit of The Grabber’s first victim trying to help him escape. It turns into a race against time as other victims’ spirits begin to call as well while Gwen tries using her dreams to help try to rescue her brother.
I feel like “The Black Phone” pays homage to some of the past drive-in classics and horror films like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Se7en”. It even gave a great feel of its time frame while not looking too much like they were trying to show off the ‘70s itself down to the old brick-shaped ice cream containers and glass soda bottles.
Davies plays his role well as the father who is dealing with the loss of his wife and burying himself in abuse of multiple forms while Hawke (who continues to try and expand the roles he is taking) does well without really standing out. The way the script is written is while his role is very limited, I could still feel his presence in the house throughout the film on a level that reminded me of the shark in “Jaws”. I really enjoyed the performances of McGraw & Thames, with the former of the two showing some great attitude and giving me the feeling that she truly has a strong bond with her brother and the latter of the two that just simply blew me away. In each scene he has to carry, even by himself, he sells this film on a high level.
“The Black Phone” is VERY intense to the point where I was on the edge of my seat through at least the last half of it and I LOVED IT. There are great “jump scares" that have purpose and not just there for the sake of being there with a very smart script that builds the intensity as it goes which is rare for a horror film these days. The first act does lay a lot of groundwork, but in the grand scheme of things, it all makes sense. From a gore standpoint, there is some violence but the level of graphic violence is only used when it needs to be on an intense wild ride that kept me interested and I just had fun with it. If you see this film, you have been warned but if you are looking for a wild ride I am giving it the coveted full price in the theaters!