The Black Phone is a 2021 horror film co-written, produced, and directed by Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange, Sinister, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and Hellraiser: Inferno). It was co-written by C. Robert Cargill (Doctor Strange, Sinister 1 and 2) and it’s based on a short story from Joe Hill (Locke & Key, Horns, In the Tall Grass, Creepshow, and NOS4A2). It was produced by Jason Blum (The Purge franchise, Insidious franchise, Get Out, Split/Glass, Happy Death Day 1/2, Halloween, and Upgrade) It had a budget of $16 million and it grossed $155.6 million worldwide at the box office. It’s currently available for streaming on Peacock!!!!
In 1978, a masked serial child abductor nicknamed “The Grabber” (played by: Ethan Hawke from The Purge, Sinister, Training Day, Moon Knight, Daybreakers, and Gattaca) prowls the streets of a Denver suburb. Siblings Finney (played by: Mason Thames from For All Mankind and Walker) and Gwen Blake (played by: Madeleine McGraw from Ant-Man and the Wasp, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Toy Story 4, and American Sniper) live in the area with their abusive, alcoholic father (played by: Jeremy Davies from The House That Jack Built, Justified, Helter Skelter, and Lost). At school, Finney is frequently bullied and harassed. He has a friendship with a classmate Robin (played by: Miguel Cazarez Mora), who fends off the bullies. A boy from another school that Finney knew named Bruce (played by: Tristan Pravong from Forever and a Day). He is abducted by the Grabber. Gwen, who has psychic dreams much like her late mother, dreams of Bruce’s kidnapping and sees that he was taken by a man in a Oni mask driving a black van. Detectives interview Gwen but struggle to believe her claims. The Grabber abducts Robin, as well as Finney days later. Finney awakens in a soundproofed basement. On the wall is a disconnected black rotary phone that the Grabber says does not work. Later, Finney hears the phone ring and answers it. He starts talking to some of The Grabber’s past victims and some even give him advice on how to survive this living nightmare. Is he losing his mind or this is a grim reality that’s trying to help him escape death from this real life monster????
The Black Phone reminds me of an earlier Stephen King type of novel which is iconic because it’s based on his son Joe Hill’s short story. The Black Phone is a nice mix of horror and suspense thriller with supernatural elements thrown in. The horror sub-genre has been very hit or miss lately but this is one of the better ones recently and definitely one of the best of this year. The script has some nice character development and it builds up tension until the very end. I haven’t seen most of these kids in anything but the casting was spot on especially because most of them were new or unknown during this so it felt more realistic. I’ve been a big fan of director Scott Derrickson for years now and he basically left Doctor Strange Two to do this smaller horror feature when he had creative issues with that bigger sequel. Ethan Hawke gives one of his darkest and creepiest performances as The Grabber in The Black Phone. He’s the best thing about this production, he increased the quality of everything in this with his portrayal of a very disturbed man. The Grabber has potential one of the best villains in a long time. This one has some solid violence and gore but it’s more psychological than anything. The finale act really delivers and it has some twists. This is a must seen for horror and Blumhouse fans, it’s currently available for streaming on Peacock plus this great home video release from Universal, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Universal Pictures! This (2.39:1) transfer looks great in HD, I’m really surprised that it didn’t get 4K treatment in the states. It has excellent cinematography and production design especially The Grabber’s torture chamber for his victims. It has a few different audio options which includes English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French (Canada): DTS 5.1, and Spanish: DTS-HD HR 7.1 on the disc. All of the dialogue is crystal clear, the suspense is elevated, and the music has a nice boost to it. It also has English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Let’s discuss the special features on this collector’s edition from Universal Pictures! “Audio commentary” with producer/co-writer/director Scott Derrickson. “Deleted Scenes” is a little over a minute. “Ethan Hawke’s Evil Turn” is a little over 4 minutes. “Answering the Call: Behind the Scenes of The Black Phone” is almost 11 minutes. “Devil in the Design” is a little over 5 minutes. “Super 8 Set” is almost 2 minutes. “Shadowprowler” is a slasher short film directed by Scott Derrickson and it’s almost 12 minutes. They cover everything that you would want to know about this production here. Lots of behind the scenes stuff from the cast and crew. You even get a cameo from special fx legend Tom Savini in this. This is what makes it worth buying rather than just streaming. I love finding out more about these films. My favorite thing about this home video release is the short that they included from the director. It’s also comes with a slipcover, digital code, and a DVD copy of the release. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!