Black Phone, the review: ready, who kills?

The review of Black Phone, the film by Scott Derrickson, which finds Ethan Hawke, based on the story by Joe Hill and moves between horror and thriller, from June 23 at the cinema with Universal Pictures.

In introducing ours Black Phone review, the film from June 23 to theaters with Universal Pictures, we emphasize that it is a story adapted for the big screen by Scott Derrickson, returning to horror and directing after Doctor Strange, inspired by the eponymous story by Joe Hill, part of the Ghosts collection. And we say it immediately for those who do not know: Hill is none other than the son of Stephen King, who uses this pseudonym not to live in the shadow of his father, and after creating comics (Locke & Key) and series (NOS4A2) he arrives even at the cinema.

Thriller or horror?

Black Phone: Mason Thames during a scene from the film

Just as The Batman had returned to the origins of the myth of the Dark Knight by proposing a crime that paid homage to the Detective Comics who is the Bat Man, Black Phone is divided between thriller and horror, often leaning towards the first genre. Also in this case we start from a story with a crime flavor: a series of mysterious kidnappings of some children that upsets and worries a small town in America in the late 1970s. Parents are alert for their children, on their way from school to home, on their return from sleepover with friends and so on. A shady figure – played by the good Ethan Hawke who stands out in the movie poster – with black balloons seems to kidnap these kids and we don’t know what he does with them and above all where he keeps them hidden, because they have never seen each other again. The story is told from the point of view of one of them, Finney (rookie Mason Thames), the classic skinny and slightly loser student who can’t stand up to his peers, and who has a good relationship with his sister. Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), with whom she often travels the way home. A sister who has “powers” just like her mother, who left them at a young age after a nervous breakdown with an alcoholic and abusive father (a particularly inspired Jeremy Davies).

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A thousand and one voices

Black Phone 2

Black Phone: Madeleine McGraw in a photo from the film

Once kidnapped, the boy does not give up early, especially when he discovers that a mysterious old black phone (hence the title, in spite of smartphones) hanging on the wall rings mysteriously and voices answer on the other end. of the other victims who want to make sure that Finney doesn’t end up like them. This supernatural teamwork is one of the most interesting aspects of this tale, which makes the rectory original kidnapping story with relative hope of rescue. It does so through the “old” version of a tool typical of today’s adolescents, which they use to communicate and live rather than speak to each other, and even here on the phone they reveal aspects of their life and character that they did not know de visu at school, almost like a metaphor and a parallelism that winks at today. We won’t tell you how it turns out, but it’s definitely a coming-of-age novel in disguise, or rather a coming of age which cleverly uses the horror element to tell more. There are some moments jumpscare and the direction of Scott Derrickson, together with the dark and dirty photography, remind us of how he is in his element after Sinister (from which he finds Ethan Hawke), from The Exorcism of Emily Rose and above all from the psychedelic worlds of the first Doctor Strange, squeezing the eye on IT and other teen-themed classics. But, as often happens with Joe Hill’s stories, Locke & Key aside, you want to embrace too many genres without really choosing one, and this affects the cohesion in the staging and the narrative tension that becomes fluctuating throughout the film.

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Choose your battle

Black Phone Ethn Hawke

Black Phone: a creepy Ethan Hawke

Each of the characters has their own inner battle in Black Phone: Finney must find the tools and the strength to assert herself with respect to her fellow bullies at school, Gwen must find a contact and balance with her own “powers”, understanding that her dreams I am a mirror on reality and I am not the “Evil” who paints the father and who in his perspective took their mother away. A father who too will experience a path of formation and redemption throughout the film, putting the family back at the center, as often happens in horror and crime based on kidnappings. Ethan Hawke proves to be a villain at times disturbing but not always completely convinced, with a family history not sufficiently explained to the viewer, and he too ends up being a victim of the ups and downs of the narrative.

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We close the Black Phone review happy to find Scott Derrickson struggling with a horror, but choosing more the ways of the thriller, alternating typically genre moments with others more crime and showing a teenage Bildungsroman as is typical of Joe Hill’s writing. , from whose story this story is taken.

Because we like it

  • Directed by Scott Derrickson, who returns to horror after Doctor Strange.
  • Photography and staging that travels between horror and thriller.
  • The idea of ​​the victims teaming up to save the latest arrival from the executioner.
  • The villain played by Ethan Hawke that Derrickson finds after Sinister is disturbing …

What’s wrong

  • … but we know too little about its history and its motivations, and this makes it unconvincing at times.
  • Too often the thriller is chosen rather than the horror and the narrative tension is affected which becomes fluctuating.

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