The Black Phone (2021) Poster

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6/10
I wish there was more depth to the story
Polotovar15 July 2022
In the end, I'm disappointed. It started off fine, but it stayed fine for the rest of the film and in short I was expecting something more than just fine. I was waiting for some questions to be answered, some revelations, some explanations. I was most puzzled by the ending, which seemed too quick, almost cut off. Not to criticize, I liked the time setting. It added a bit of magic. At least for me. Summary. Bottom line. It was okay, but I was expecting a little more. A little more depth to the story. I missed some revelation or explanation. For me, an above average horror film that I would only recommend to fans of the genre.
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7/10
Could have been so much more.
IgorNascimentoVeiga25 July 2022
Starting from a really good and somewhat original premise, it's not because it addresses a repeated theme (Kidnapper and a basement) that it's generic or copy, it's the same as saying that every mafia movie is a copy of The Godfather.

However, I believe that what was lacking in The Black Phone was to delve more deeply into its characters, using the star Ethan Hawke more, giving his character a dual personality tone, which would consequently result in a greater wealth of details and plot.

The scenes inside the captivity with the boy are really chilling, however, I believe that if the secret of the film was revealed later leaving the viewer in doubt, the film and psychological horror would have worked better, certainly better than jumpscares.

In addition, the film doesn't bring the repercussion of the facts that happened outside the captivity where nobody seems to worry much (Several children from the same location disappear and no parent worries about letting their children walk alone to school? Really? )

In addition, there are certain scenes that add nothing to the story.

There are obviously its positive points, like the scene between father and daughter that is really shocking probably because it involves a child, but it really turned out really good the girl's expression is really creepy (A shame because after nothing an abusive and alcoholic father becomes a loving and caring father).

The movie is obviously far from bad, but for maybe promising so much and creating expectations for something deep or a plot twist and not delivering it ended up frustrating me a little.
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8/10
creepy but a good watch.
decimatorcortez4 August 2022
An intense movie, worth a watch. May make your skin crawl/

Takes me back to my days as a kid growing up in Houston and the Houston Mass Murders. Wiki one of the killers, Elmer Wayne Henley for the story.
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7/10
Love is a strong and powerful thing....
PerryAtTheMovies24 June 2022
7.4/10

This movie was definitely a solid 7 and is absolutely worth seeing in theatres.

The chemistry amongst actors was really good. I especially found that Mason Thames (Finney) and Madeline McGraw (Gwen) were adorable as brother and sister. Their relationship reminded me of the one I have with my sister so I was able to make the story more personal. Ethan Hawke was very methodical and creepy without getting too close to the extreme, but definitely could've reached even better heights of true discomfort. His chemistry with Thames worked really well for their interactions.

The story was very engaging. Everything flowed so well that the hour forty-five minute runtime flew by. While it's in the title of the movie, the black phone was actually an uncomfortable aspect of the film because you never know when it will go off and the jump scares are perfectly timed to match. There was discomfort throughout the entire film, but it never hit the extremes it could've.

If I had to relate this film to another of similar aspects it would have to be "The Kid Detective". However, instead of focusing strictly on the search for the missing person, we get the benefit of seeing the missing person suffer.

Why should you go see this film? Because it's actually scary. So much so that those in the theatre actually jumped and a couple may have thrown an audible scream out. While the story could've been darker, for what were given it's actually pretty good. And like I said above the chemistry is really good. This film was not a disappointment and I suggest you go see if you want a good movie to watch.

Thank you for reading my review. Tune in tomorrow for my review on "Elvis". Until next time.... Enjoy the show!
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8/10
The Phone From Beyond
claudio_carvalho3 August 2022
In 1978, in Denver, the siblings Finney (Mason Thames) and Gwen Blake (Madeleine McGraw) live with his widower alcoholic father Terrence (Jeremy Davies). They miss their mother, who had psychic abilities and committed suicide. Finney is bullied at school by three mates, but his friend Robin (Miguel Cazarez Mora) defends him. When a child abductor known as "The Grabber" kidnaps a boy named Bruce (Tristan Pravong), Gwen has a dream and mentions reference to black balloons unknown by the public. Detectives Wright (E. Roger Mitchell) and Miller (Troy Rudeseal) come to the school to interview Gwen, but they do not believe in her statement. But when Finney is abducted by "The Grabber", he is locked in a soundproof basement and learns that the black phone on the wall is disconnected. But out of the blue, Finney receives phone calls from the beyond.

"The Black Phone" is a tense and creepy horror movie, with a good ghost story. The character "The Grabber", performed by Ethan Hawke, is scary and his masks are frightening. The acting of the cast is top-notch. Fortunately, the screenplay does not show any scene of child abuse and is not too graphic. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Telefone Preto" ("The Black Phone")
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7/10
Works well with its interesting premise and features some solid performances from its cast
MrDHWong25 August 2022
"The Black Phone" is a horror film based on the short story of the same name by Joe Hill. Directed by Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose", "Doctor Strange") and starring Ethan Hawke, it works well with its interesting premise and features some solid performances from its cast.

In 1978, young Finney Blake (Mason Thames) and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) live in a small suburb in Denver, Colorado. At school, the physically weak Finney often faces off against bullies while Gwen's psychic dream abilities attract the attention of the local police. One day, Finney is kidnapped by a masked murderer known only as "The Grabber" (Ethan Hawke), who locks him away in a soundproofed basement with a disconnected phone mounted on the wall. While Gwen aids the police in finding Finney's location, the latter starts to receive calls from the phone that belong to the disembodied souls of The Grabber's victims. As Finney answers more of their calls, the victims start to give him advice on how to avoid meeting the same fate as them.

Though not many people would be familiar with the author Joe Hill, I'm certain virtually everyone knows who is father is - Stephen King. Following in famous father's footsteps, Hill is slowly but surely crafting a name for himself with stories such as "Heart-Shaped Box" and "Horns" all making waves within the horror-fiction community. Aside from the moderately successful TV series "Locke & Key", which is based on a set of comic books he wrote, Hill has had very few other adaptations of his work that are worth mentioning. Now with 2022's "The Black Phone", Hill finally has an adaptation that can be considered a true defining point in his career as a writer, because it succeeds not only as a good horror film but as a pretty decent coming-of-age film too.

Much like his father before him, Hill's storytelling technique manages to combine the two genres together to create something that sets itself apart from most other similar films. We get to properly know our lead characters through the conditions they grow up in and the type of people they are surrounded by. For instance, Finney is a supportive older brother to Gwen, whom the latter faces frequent abuse from her alcoholic father. Although his intentions are honourable, Finney can never quite muster the courage to stand up to injustice and instead relies on others to do the job for him. Over the course of the film, we get to see how Finney grows as a character, gradually finding ways to build his self-confidence through various methods, either through the people he meets or on his own merits. Without divulging too much else, the film does a solid job at establishing Finney as a well-rounded protagonist that practically any young teen watching can find ways to identify with.

However, the one major problem I have with the film is Hill's overreliance on the story tropes pioneered by his father. While I was watching, I couldn't help but pick out nearly all of the typical Stephen King clichés that were being used left, right, and centre. The insecure alcoholic parent, the young child with unexplained supernatural abilities, the subtle slighting against Christianity, the school bullies attacking the protagonist, and even the small town setting are all used here prominently. The only thing that seemed different was that the story takes place in Colorado instead of Maine (I guess that would have been too obvious). I understand that Hill has taken a lot of influence from his father's writing style, which is fine, but if he wants to form his own identity, he really needs to do a whole lot more to create something unique for himself that won't leave him remembered as being simply "Stephen King's Son". With that in mind, the tropes still make for an effective horror story, even if we've seen them all many times before.

Under the direction of seasoned horror filmmaker Scott Derrickson, the film has just the right amount of flow and pacing to properly carry itself along without wearing out its welcome. Derrickson goes for a classic approach to horror, relying primarily on mounting dread rather than straight-up blood and gore. Whenever something frightening happens after the appropriate build-up, it always felt earned and wasn't simply shoehorned in there as a cheap jump-scare. If anything, Derrickson's directorial style is reminiscent of John Carpenter, in that he uses suspense and atmosphere to set the tone of a particular scene, allowing for a more streamlined horror experience.

The audience is also given little information about what The Grabber's motivations are other than to abduct children and keep them prisoner for an extended period of time. This works well because while it's obvious his intentions are sinister; we never quite get to see the extent of how bad things could get for someone like poor Finney. Instead, we are drip-fed small moments of what The Grabber is truly capable of through the phone calls Finney receives, which allows the audience to use their imagination to fill in the blanks of what atrocities have been committed. Sometimes, minimalism works best in scenarios like this and Derrickson uses all of that to the film's advantage.

Another thing that helps the film in the long run is the performances from its main cast. Mason Thames manages to hold the audience's attention throughout scenes that could have dragged on if a less talented young actor played the role. Best of all, he actually acts like how a real person might if they were trapped in a situation such as this. He never comes across as an annoying teenager resorting to extreme measures when trying to escape but instead as an intellectual using more practical means to break free. Thames's chemistry with his on-screen sister Madeleine McGraw felt like a real sibling relationship, with the two of them looking out for each other during the worst of times. McGraw does a nice job balancing the story out with Gwen's psychic powers providing a "Shining"-esque method of hunting down her brother's kidnapper. Although I wish we could have had more scenes of her using these abilities throughout the film, what we ended up getting in the end was satisfactory.

Additionally, Ethan Hawke takes a threatening turn in portraying "The Grabber". While this isn't the first time Hawke has played a villain, I don't believe we've ever seen him play one this unhinged and unpredictable. Apart from the fact that he wears a large scary mask that looks like it came straight out of "The Purge" series (which coincidentally starred Hawke in the first film), it's alarming to think that there really are abductors out there like him who would do such evil things to children. I was always curious to see what his true intentions were with Finney and without giving away spoilers it was eventually explained as the film went on. All you need to know is that he is a dangerous man who derives sick pleasure from what he does.

As both a horror film and a coming-of-age film, "The Black Phone" is just as entertaining as any Stephen King-inspired story should be, with its well-developed characters and involving plot. In the future, I just hope that Joe Hill finds a way to distinguish himself better by writing something a bit more original that doesn't feel like he's borrowing heavily from his old man. If you're willing to look past its overused tropes, then the film still functions as an efficient treat for horror fans craving a quick fix. With that said, I know I got mine.

I rate it 7/10.
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8/10
The A Teams missing their van 😏
sithstalker-757893 August 2022
Judging by the reviews this really seems to be quite a polarising film. I'm not sure what some of the lower scores would have wanted to see maybe seeing children getting tortured and then killed on screen perhaps I dunno?

But me I found this to be a rather enjoyable flick. Hawke is brilliant as the antagonist but it's really the child stars that shine in this film and make it all that more immersesble.

One reviewer did say that a bit of a depth and backstory could have been nice, but do we always need that? Sometimes you've just gotta take things at face value and enjoy them for what they are. That's my train of thought anyway.

Personally I'd class this more as a thriller rather than a horror and not having seen the trailer maybe they amped it upto 11 to make it more marketable and scary and coz honestly this movie wasn't scary.

But if you like slow burn films, sprinkled in with a bit of mysticism and the unknown, good storytelling and great acting I don't think u can go wrong with this one.

I don't watch many trailers for films and prefer to go in blind not knowing what's going to happen that way you're either gonna find a dud or a gem and I would put this film in the latter category.

Easily an 8 out of 10 from me. But don't just believe what I say watch it and decide for yourself 😎👍
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8/10
Great crowd pleasing horror
masonsaul28 June 2022
The Black Phone takes a while to get going but once it does it delivers plenty of tense moments without a complete reliance on jump scares with a consistently unsettling atmosphere and lots of satisfying moments of set up and pay off.

Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw are both terrific, carrying a lot of the film on their shoulders and ably rising to the task. Ethan Hakwe is really terrifying as the grabber, able to convey a lot despite being hidden under the mask for a most part.

Scott Derrickson's direction is amazing, the film is constantly mobile to cleverly contrast the confined environment with plenty of 70s style. The music by Mark Korven is excellent, beautifully haunting and era appropriate. There's also a few solid needle drops.
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9/10
The Black Phone reunites Sinister's Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, and Ethan Hawke for an intense and terrifying ride.
IonicBreezeMachine17 July 2022
Set in North Denver, Colorado in 1978, brother and sister Finney (Mason Thames) and Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) live with their drunken abusive father Terrence (Jeremy Davies). Finney is abducted by a serial child snatcher/murderer known as The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) who locks Finney in a soundproofed basement before eventually escalating to killing him. Inside the basement is a black phone that is disconnected, but despite this it rings and Finney answers it and hears the voices of The Grabber's previous victims who give him hints and clues to how Finney can fight back against the Grabber. Meanwhile Gwen experiences vivid dreams that are tied to The Grabber and tries to find her brother before it's too late.

The Black Phone is an adaption of the short story of the same name written by horror writer Joe Hill. The film reunites Writer/Director Scott Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill the two having previously collaborated on Sinister and Marvel's Doctor Strange and the duo determined this would be their next project after finishing Doctor Strange 2 which the two eventually left due to creative differences. The film was initiated during the covid-19 pandemic with actor Mason Thames' audition actually taking place over Zoom. The movie has been warmly received by critics and audiences, and rightly so because The Black Phone is a great horror film.

The movie does a nice job of setting up its characters and situation before actually diving into the main crux of the story with the opening half hour dedicated to character building and a big part of that comes down to the casting which is pitch perfect. Both Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw are well defined and memorable characters who despite being brother and sister also have an enduring friendship with the two of them serving as anchoring points in their dysfunctional family due to the barely held together father Terrence who alternates between being in a drunken stupor and bouts of rage. Jeremy Davies plays Terrence and despite this character type being very common to this type of story Davies and the writers give more depth to this character than you usually see with some good scenes of emotionally vulnerability. Last but not least is Ethan Hawke as The Grabber and Hawke is terrifying as this masked unhinged killer who barely conceals his violent predisposition behind not only an unnerving mask but also a demeanor that's not too dissimilar from a psychotic 12 year old bully. It's a solid performance from Hawke and he's really creepy in the movie. The movie gets a lot of mileage out of its usage of the phone with the rules for how the ghosts communicate being fairly consistent and Finney being reasonably intelligent to pull it off. Sometimes the movie does show that it's based off a short story as there are instances where the plot contrives circumstances to keep itself going, but for the most part The Black Phone did what it was supposed to and made me care about the characters and wonder whether they'd make it out alive.

The Black Phone is high concept horror done right with a simple story featuring complex and defined characters. The movie is an unnerving cat and mouse game with solid performances by relative newcomers Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw in the leads, and Jeremy Davies and Ethan Hawke giving usually reliable supporting performances. It's really solid entertainment and if you're a horror fan I highly encourage you to seek this out.
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7/10
Yeah, Ethan Hawke at it again.
Zaid_Khoury9 November 2021
Ethan Hawke is at it again, I loved the vibe of the movie, director came in clutch with this movie, it was truly surprising. Didn't expect it to be even remotely good, when this movie does fully release in theaters please do watch it in the big screens you will not regret it, child actors are incredible. I thought i saw the whole movie in the trailers, oh boy I was wrong.
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7/10
Twisted Good
Tweetienator17 July 2022
Indeed, well entertained I was - a fine cast and solid production (takes us back to the late 70s), and that blend of thriller with a good shot of supernatural horror made The Black Phone a nice entertaining trip. The cast is really good, especially the younger ones too. Recommended if you like such movies as The Lovely Bones, Split, Chained (Vincent D'Onofrio), House at the End of the Street and so on.
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6/10
Just Ok,...
shahrad14 July 2022
Thought it would be better. It's entertaining, yes, but has lots of plot holes. We have seen much better movies with similar stories. However, we see great performances mostly from Ethan Hawke. He is really twisted and creepy here.

But again, one of those films that you forgot quickly.
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5/10
Not that good
tom9922 July 2022
It was not bad and not good, there is no horror in this movie, the story is poor and poorly executed. I'm baffled at all the good reviews, I think it's all very overrated, people saying that it's the best horror movie?? They probably never saw any horror movie.
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4/10
Slightly below average and weak
nscoby9323 June 2022
This film has brought to mind a question that becomes increasingly relevant whenever I go out and watch something new. What is happening in modern day cinema?

This film features some of the weakest child acting I have ever seen. Or perhaps it's not the child actors but the poor script because apparently what passes for comedy is children cursing and throwing out F words in every other sentence. Why on Earth more than half of the theater audience giggles at this atrocious writing is beyond me. Perhaps they laugh at how bad it was but that was not my impression.

I didn't care for any of these characters, they were either all poorly written or were never given enough time to be developed. Ethan Hawke is absolutely wasted here, he delivers a great creepy performance as The Grabber but he's not fleshed out. This film at least has a solid third act and a decent ending.

With almost every new release it becomes increasingly apparent the trademark of modern cinema is weak and lazy writing. I am getting tired of subpar films and incompetent writing. What happened to the passion, the art, and respect for film? I see a lot reviews praising this film so I don't know maybe it's just not for me. Oh well onto the next, hopefully Elvis is stronger.

IMDb: 4/10 Letterboxd: 2/5

Watched in Theaters.
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8/10
A solid, tense thriller with some nice twists.
Top_Dawg_Critic14 August 2022
The 103 min runtime and decent pacing was cleverly used to maintain atmospheric and unnerving constant suspense. The directing and cinematography was spot-on with an excellent score. Casting and performances were great, especially Ethan Hawke and the feisty and talented Madeleine McGraw, who stole the spotlight. Sure it could've used some more gore and guts, but that would've made the story less authentic and too cheesy. It's a great film well put together for the horror-thriller genre.
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6/10
Expected it to be scarier
Calicodreamin20 July 2022
I was definitely expecting this to be scarier, a few jumps but nothing major. The storyline was well developed and not at all what I expected. Acting was pretty good. Could have just been a bit more.
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8/10
Superb Casting
slightlymad2223 June 2022
I just got out of The Black Phone

Most people know I do not like horror movies, but who I went to the cinema with, does and I'm all about compromise (They things I'll do to have sex🤣)

I loved it. It's currently in my Top 10 of the year. Mason Thames and Madeline McGraw own this movie. If you are doing a horror movie where the two leads are children, you better get your casting right, and man, they knock it out of the park. Ethan Hawke is also great in this, that's less of a shock though.

The 70's setting, the jump scares (which I usually hate), the tension (I was that engrossed I forgot to open my bag of sweets), the score (amazing) are all used to great effect.
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8/10
BLUMHOUSE SCORES AGAIN WITH A HORROR WINNER
rkeilitz-19-53791516 July 2022
More touching than terrifying, Scott Derrickson's Black Phone is less a horror movie than a coming-of-age ghost story. In place of gouting gore and surging fright, this enjoyable adaptation of Joe Hill's 2005 short story has an almost contemplative tone, one that drains its familiar horror tropes a masked psychopath, communications from beyond the grave of much of their chill. The chemistry amongst the young actors was perfection and Ethan Hawke truly creeped me out without going over the top into camp horror. If you have kids I DO NOT recommend they see it.
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1/10
Yeah, a big no
MovieCriticOnline16 July 2022
Whoever did the wardrobe, hair, makeup for this film did an amazing job, because so rarely do they get the that right for 70s/80s retro films.

But that was about the only thing that was good. I mean, the fighting looked SO FAKE! If you pretend to fight, at least make us believe it is real. I hate when they get set designs, wardrobe etc right, but then they have the character say and do things they would never do. The acting was a bit hokey.

Plus we've seen the tired old abusive father before. The tired old kipnapped victim in a room they can't escape from being tormented by some lunatic.. Come on, there has to be other ways of doing horror films.

I could bearly get through this. That is how painful it was to watch. I coulnd't care less about anyon ein the film and it's the fault of the director who didn't know how to create an authentic

The whole mask thing made no sense, other than to create a scary character. Another pointless exercise in futility in movies.

SKIP!
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7/10
Thriller with an emotional backbone
josiahliljequist24 June 2022
This film really got me with the actors' performances and the atmosphere of the film. Stylistically, it definitely taps into a late 70s gritty suburban nostalgia, a la Stephen King or John Carpenter (think IT or Halloween). Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw carry the film with standout performances as two siblings trying to deal with bullies at school and at home, in addition to the lurking Grabber. Subtle quirks in characterization such as Finney sitting down and watching tv with his sister after her beating, or the camera lingering on Gwen skipping her way to a friend's house really show the director investing in the characters, not just the plot. And yes, Ethan Hawke is assuredly creepy as the villain, someone you can't wait to be taken out. Thematically, the film is about standing up and sticking together; certainly not the most original themes, but it does its job as a result of good direction, a tight script, and stellar acting. My litmus test for thrillers is if I feel invested enough in the characters that I actually want everything to be resolved, it means the movie's done it's job-this one definitely passes.
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8/10
An enjoyable addition to the genre
steveinadelaide14 August 2022
THE BLACK PHONE is a haunting and suspenseful new thriller starring Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, and Ethan Hawke, and directed by Scott Derrickson.

13-year-old Charlie is kidnapped by a child murderer and locked in a soundproof basement. The previous victims of the killer start calling Charlie on an out-of-service phone. These chilling calls give the boy a chance to save himself and others from the killer's clutches.

THE BLACK PHONE is suspenseful and scary without the need to have onscreen violence (the violence is mostly off-screen). The cast is excellent, particularly Thames and McGraw, who both give standout performances. Thames is particularly convincing as the terrified boy who is trying to make sense of the situation he's in. Hawke is also chilling as the killer, though his character is not as fleshed out as I would have liked. The movie is well-made and well-acted and has a solid story with some creepy moments - and the length is exactly right. An enjoyable addition to the genre.
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2/10
Don't fall for it!
pensacolacomputer1 July 2022
This is literally the worst "horror" movie I've seen all year. And calling it a horror is a HUGE stretch.

This is more like a psychological drama with a couple of horror elements sprinkled in.

I cannot tell you how much this was a disappointment, this movie had been pushed back for at least a couple of years for different reasons. They should not have released this in the theaters.

I highly recommend not to waste a single dime on this movie.

2/10 The worst "horror" movie I've seen all year.
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4/10
Didn't work for me!
SoumikBanerjee2515 July 2022
I'm sure at first, they were just going to make a simple & straightforward abduction thriller but then, for whatever reason, they went for some twists into the tale. The makers thought "Why don't we add some supernatural elements into it"! Now, was that a wise judgment from their end? I don't think so! Sure, it had its moments, but sadly, those were few and far between!

I believe, this movie would have fared much nicer had the creators just stuck to their initial plans. The supernatural elements, for sure, brought something fresh into the picture but they couldn't provide anything significant, nor did those aspects help the narrative to attain newer heights. Everything felt so superficial in a sense!
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7/10
Enjoyable and creepy
K_Rad8820 August 2022
Ethan Hawke is a creepy dude - and he really delivers. I didn't want to see him as evil, but I've seen Taking Lives so I guess I know it suits him.

The entire thing is creepy, the protagonist speaks to the past victims on a phone that doesn't actually work, and they all help him find ways to get out of the basement and break the cycle of this child abduction and murder.

It's not the best film I've ever seen but as far as a little bit of good gross makeup goes and some great acting, it's definitely worth watching.
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10/10
A Scary Ethan Hawke And Terrific Young Stars Make This Thriller A Blumhouse Best...
goshamorrell16 June 2022
A Scary Ethan Hawke And Terrific Young Stars Make This Thriller A Blumhouse Best....... As Universal's distribution head Jim Orr said in introducing Tuesday night's CinemaCon screening of the studio's upcoming late June release The Black Phone, studios don't normally bring a movie like this to show in its entirety at a theater-owners convention two months ahead of opening unless they know they have the goods. With this one reuniting producer Jason Blum and Blumhouse with director Scott Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill - all having worked together on 2012's Sinister - Universal does have the goods, and then some. Being marketed apparently as a horror film, with a poster dominated by a fully terrifyingly masked and horned Ethan Hawke, what this late 1970s-set movie really is about is the trauma of youth crossing from childhood into teen years, more appropriately falling into the suspense thriller category than the kind of standard horror the marketing seems to indicate. Hopefully audiences won't be put off by that approach, because this is a truly effective movie that defies easy description but should appeal to a wider crowd. It originally premiered at the 2021 Fantastic Fest and was planned for a January release but Blum and the studio felt it needed to be seen in theaters, thus the smart move to a prime summer slot and exclusive theatrical run.

Based on the 2014 Joe Hill short story comparisons to Stephen King, and particularly It, will be inevitable, but The Black Phone marches to its own beat as we are introduced to its protagonist, young teen Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), an ace baseball pitcher who nevertheless finds himself subjected to constant harm by school bullies, as well as a single alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies) who is in over his head in raising Finney and his younger, foul-mouthed but quite religious sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw). Gwen's psychic dreams are given credence by local authorities (if not her own dad, who physically abuses her and orders her to stop) when she is able to pinpoint an abduction of one of the Colorado town's young teen boys. The best movies of any genre are the ones that focus on character giving us a reason to root for them. These filmmakers put the thrills and chills (and there are many) in second position to favor advancing a story that also stands in as an allegory for the terrors of growing up and losing the innocence of childhood in a very dark world, this one inhabited not just by The Grabber, but also bullies who mercilessly beat up their fearful schoolmates, unhinged parents, and other realities of life. The Black Phone may also be known someday as a star-making film, with both Thames perfectly anchoring the story as Finney, a kid whose own awkwardness and eventual determination to survive has us cheering for him, and particularly McGraw, who steals every scene she has with a seeming ease that says this movie will not be the last we hear of her. She is a true standout.
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