The Scott Derrickson-directed film, which is based on a short story by Joe Hill, mixes supernatural horror with real issues. This is our review of "The Black Phone" .
LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González
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Leer en español: Reseña de "The Black Phone": lo más aterrador del 2022
What causes more fear in a horror movie? The real. In recent decades, this genre of cinema has drawn many screams from the public through paranormal events, although the scariest thing we can face is a plot that has a real background and that can happen to anyone. Deranged predators, missing children, and family violence, mixed with the supernatural, bring us one of the terrifying works of 2022: "The Black Phone".
In many countries of the world, there are towns that have a reputation for violence or where it was common for children to disappear. Precisely, this story is set in one of those suburbs, in Colorado, in the '70s. Finney Shaw, a 13-year-old teenager who lives with his younger sister and his alcoholic father, disappears one day without a trace, just like other boys in the area before him. A culprit is a man who at first glance looks like a nice neighbor.
Finney is locked in a dingy basement that has only a mattress and a black phone on the wall with the cord cut. However, when it starts to ring, he will realize that he can communicate with the previous victims who were there, who will help him so that he does not have a terrible end like theirs at the hands of the serial killer.
Director Scott Derrickson and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill join forces again after "Sinister" to adapt the tale of Joe Hill, son of horror master Stephen King. The cast has the masterful performance of Ethan Hawke, added to the young revelations Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw who leave good feelings with the development of their characters.
Terrors of Everyday Life
Normally, the telephone is the element that this type of depraved killer usually uses to taunt the authorities or instill more fear in their victims. However, with "The Black Phone" that formula is different, like many others in the genre, since the villain is aware that the black phone in the basement is not operational and therefore does not use it, despite the fact that it is the victim who makes it useful with the help of the beyond.
Throughout 103 minutes duration, this thriller maintains a balance between its elements of terror, the supernatural, and psychological suspense without getting pigeonholed into any of those. The setting, in turn, plays an essential role in establishing a mood so real and somber that it intimidates by violence both at school, by bullies, and at home, by abusive parents. All this adds also to the mental blow produced by the notices of missing persons.
Likewise, it is worth highlighting one or another horror reference throughout "The Black Phone". As we mentioned before, Joe Hill is the author of the original story and also the son of Stephen King, something that did not go unnoticed in the film. Black balloons, a yellow raincoat, and a murderer that evokes John Wayne Gacy are some typical winks of works like "It" within this plot. Plus, beyond the "Stranger Things" vibe it might generate, it also owes a lot to a classic like "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."
On the other hand, the role of Ethan Hawke is really memorable. While there's a lot of merit to the script, what the actor does by making the most of his talents to cause fear, whether on stage or not, makes his character a menacing psychopath. His mannerisms and cruel play with his victim are well adorned with a collection of creepy masks that make you think how cruel a person can be.
What Was "The Black Phone" Inspired by?
There is nothing more terrifying in a movie of this genre that is based on a true event. And it is that the reason for inspiration for "The Black Phone" goes back to a sinister basement that Joe Hill had during his childhood. As he told the SlashFilm portal in an interview, he and his family lived in an old Victorian house whose basement was a labyrinth.
“It had a dirt floor, and it was a labyrinth of convoluted concrete corridors, hanging pipes, cobwebbed, and antique furniture. Typical horror movie basement. And in a part of the basement there was an old telephone that was not connected", he said. In the end, the story he had written for a magazine became a novel, which was later adapted into a screenplay brilliantly executed by the director.
In general terms, "The Black Phone" is a solid horror bet that is handled in the supernatural and that also portrays the violence and horror so "normalized" that children live today. If there is something that is clear, it is that, without a doubt, the living must be feared more than the dead.