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"The Black Phone" Movie Review

Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.


In 1978, one small town saw several children kidnapped, the only remainder a set of black balloons at the grab site. People began calling this kidnapper The Grabber. He became a legend, many kids under the impression that even so much as speaking his name would draw him to them. Not a bad set up for the film and it certainly sparks the paranoia early. Which kid will be next? Well, we know at some point Finney or Gwen will be taken because they are the main kids in the story. It just so happens to be Finney (as shown in the trailer).

Finney is a good kid but he's bullied a lot. He doesn't have the courage to take a stand and say no when he or a friend is in danger. That makes him a perfect target for The Grabber. Finney's held in a basement of sorts. In his room, or cell if you prefer, there's a black phone that isn't hooked up but still rings. The Grabber says it's due to static electricity but Finney thinks there's more to it. Pretty soon, the phone starts ringing for Finney...and he hears a voice, the voice of a previous victim. The longer Finney is held in the room, the more voices he hears through the phone. But are they real? Or is Finney losing his sanity? And who is The Grabber?

The Black Phone is such an intense thriller and there's not a whole lot of jumpscares or cheap thrills. The film operates as a true horror, playing on not only the fear we have for Finney's safety but also the fear we have of The Grabber. What are his intentions, what's his endgame, and why does he have to have a mask on?

Mason Thames performed perfectly as the scared but determined Finney, but Madelaine McGraw who played Gwen was absolutely outstanding. She stole every scene she was in and sold her performance at every turn. There's a particular intense scene in which her cries evokes tears in our own eyes. It's a scene that's hard to take, especially because of how brilliantly Madelaine performs. The only person to outshine anyone else would be The Grabber himself, Ethan Hawke. His soft voice mixed with his sinister eyes makes for a terrifying villain, especially considering we can only see his eyes for 95% of the film since he wears various masks depending on his mood.

The mix of realism and supernatural elements are perfectly blended and easily makes one start to wonder if there are people out there do have a gift, or curse, to hear the dead.

My only two issues with the film are, one, that Ethan Hawke was not in the film enough. I wanted to see and find out more about him. The potential psychology behind his character is a puzzle in itself. The second issue is that Miguel Cazorez Mora was a bit choppy with his acting. Nothing that a little practice and time won't fix, though.

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In conclusion, The Black Phone is a brilliant horror that's both terrifying and hopeful and thought-provoking. It's unnerving and tense but also so riveting. I give the film a 3.5 out of 4.

© 2022 Nathan Jasper

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