Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

July 6, 2022
‘The Black Phone’ is ringing, are you going to answer?

The horror film genre is one of the least respected genres in the movie industry, and it’s clear to see why. 

Horror films developed a low-budget model, where they’re made for cheap so there’s little to no box office risk. A lot of people are critical of this because of the influx of cheaply made bad horror movies in the last decade.

One of the masterminds behind the strategy is the production company Blumhouse. 

Notable movies of theirs like “Insidious: Chapter 2” and “Happy Death Day” were made for under $5 million and grossed well over $100 million during their theatrical run. 

One of their biggest successes, 2007’s “Paranormal Activity,” was made on a budget of $15,000 and grossed nearly $200 million worldwide. 

While they’ve made some duds in the past, Blumhouse also have a few gems under their belt. Their newest film, “The Black Phone” was released a couple weeks ago. 

“The Black Phone” is set in the 70s in Denver, Colorado, where a kidnapper nicknamed “The Grabber,” played by Ethan Hawke, cruises the streets in his black van, looking for children to abduct.

Finney Shaw, played by Mason Thames, just so happens to be one of those kids. 

The Grabber takes Finney and locks him in a bare room with nothing besides a mattress and a disconnected black phone. It’s not long after he arrives that the phone begins to ring.

Finney soon discovers the voices he hears on the other end are previous victims of The Grabber, and they’re bent on revenge.

“The Black Phone” combines multiple supernatural elements under a horror lens, much like a Stephen King story. If you’re a fan of stories like that, or horror movies in general, I think you’ll have a good time at this one — I did.

Besides the disturbing subject matter, the film has a few intense scares. Every time the grabber came on screen my gut would do acrobatics. I was hesitant at first about the casting of Ethan Hawke — don’t get me wrong, he’s one of my favorite actors, I just never saw him as a serial killer — but he pulled off an incredible performance.

The emotional component of the film was also surprising. There’s a strong relationship between Finney and his sister Gwen, played by Madeleine McGraw, along with an attachment with some of the past victims. 

I liked that the film took time to develop these relationships rather than assuming the audience should just feel for the characters.

However, like most horror movies, there are a couple of clunky moments. There were a few special effects shots during the climax of the film that looked fake. I understand that they were difficult to shoot, but considering the film was given a larger budget than other Blumhouse features, I think they could’ve done a better job. 

There was also a subplot about an abusive father that never wrapped up. Besides those few clunky bits and a couple other unfeasible plot points regarding the strength of 13-year-old kids, it was a good movie.

Overall, if “The Black Phone” is ringing for you, I’d recommend you answer it.

I’ll give it a 7 out of 10. The film is rated R for violence, bloody images, language, and drug use. I wouldn’t take your kids to this one.

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