Review: The Black Phone

The Black Phone oil painting

Year: 2021 | Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

As many of you are well aware, I don’t generally “do” horror movies, but I had to make an exception for The Black Phone because I just had to see this performance from Ethan Hawke.

And generally speaking, he does not disappoint, at least when he’s actually on the screen, which — in following a standard horror flick trope of not giving the big baddie that much screen time — isn’t that often. Make this two films in 2022 now that left me wanting more from Mr. Hawke (the first being The Northman). If we get a Black Phone sequel (and I would think that we would, seeing as this film was a financial success), I hope that it goes a little into the Grabber’s backstory and motivations, for no other reason than to see more of Hawke in this very un-characteristic role. If it weren’t so early in the year, I’d contemplate his chances of landing a Best Supporting Actor nom for this performance, but I think it’s a pretty long shot at this point.

The Black Phone screenshot

Apart from Hawke, though, what really stood out to me about The Black Phone is how it doesn’t really try that hard to be a “scary” movie, which is good for me, because horror movies don’t typically scare me. Whereas most of the time with films like these the scares are the main attraction and there’s not much else to latch onto, here director Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill have crafted a film that works just as well as a drama, which really kept my attention and kept me from getting bored and losing interest. There are some genuine emotional beats hit in places in this film, and, for the most part, it hits them successfully.

You have some kinda weird horror movie stuff that feels like it was shoe-horned in just for the sake of it (a strange religious sub-theme being one of them), and some of the stuff with the main character’s home life isn’t fleshed out quite as well as it could have been, but I definitely think that the successes outweigh the faults here and I can actually say that The Black Phone is a rare studio “horror” film that I actually enjoyed.

Language: English
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Runtime: 1 hr. 43 min.
Rating: R

Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell

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