The Black Phone
I am a sucker for good horror and survival films. Provided the films are well made, they definitely make for an enthralling watch which would keep you at the edge of your seat. One such film did fall in this bucket which had a theatrical release last month titled The Black Phone. The first thing which impressed me about the film was its poster. A rather intimidating look of its antagonist(essayed by Ethan Hawke) definitely had all of my attention. To top it, the films was marveled by many of the film critics who had lauded the concept of the film and its performances. And this just added to my excitement about the film. Now I did miss out on its theatrical release due to my huge backlog coupled with the limited release which it had, the film was finally out on VOD and I jumped at the opportunity. And with that I finished watching The Black Phone last night, is it worth your time…stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
The Black Phone follows the story of a 13 year old boy who starts receiving mysterious phone calls while being kidnapped in a basement by a child abductor. The story has an interesting premise which is similar to a serial killer film. The point to be noted is that this is not your typical Horror film with jump scares. In fact, this film explores different genres with horror being one of them. The screenplay standing at just about 100 minutes means that it is a quick watch.
The drama opens to a brilliant premise in a town where kids are being kidnapped. There is a chilling presence which instantly makes you feel uneasy. After a series of mildly meandering sequences, the drama gets to the point where the 13 year old is kidnapped. The drama is interesting at this point and I couldn’t wait for the possibilities that would be explored in this part psychological and part horror drama.
It is from here that the drama slightly stutters although the drama is watchable. The series of phone calls act as parts of a larger jigsaw puzzle which adds up at the end. A parallel sub-plot of the 13 year old’s sister having dreams of him being kidnapped barely adds to the tension of the drama. It did feel a little pretentious too and there was no real explanation given about why these things were happening. You are kind of lost as to where the drama is leading upto although you hang in by the thread for things to improve.
But thankfully the final act makes the wait worth it. It all adds together in typical The Shawshank Redemption style(loosely so). However, I really wished that there were a few twists and turns along the way given that the premise had some great potential. The one track screenplay is something that eventually lead to its downfall, relatively so. There are glaring loopholes in the screenplay where certain things are left to your imagination! But overall, still decently penned!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are adequate and more conversational throughout the film. The BGM is pretty good and even when things aren’t going according to plan, the BGM does give you a semblance of hope. The cinematography and art design are pretty good as well. Director Scott Derrickson has done a decent job here. While he does score in the first act as well as the final act, the middle act leaves a bit to be desired.
The performances are really good here. Madeleine McGraw as Gwen has her moments to shine. Mason Thames as Finney is excellent and he scores well in certain scenes which require him to do some amount of heavy lifting. But Ethan Hawke as The Grabber is the star of the show. He is menacing, intimidating and does make you shudder in certain sequences. Also his look added very well to his character. Overall, the performances do save the day to an extent.
The Black Phone is a decent thriller but surely you expected more from this film! Available in a theatre near you and Video On Demand(VOD).