Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke
Release Date: August 16, 2022
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 9/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
Finney (Thames), a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, is abducted by a sadistic killer (Hawke) and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. And they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney. The film is produced by Derrickson & Cargill’s Crooked Highway and presented by Universal and Blumhouse.
Please Note: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Post. The opinions I share are my own.
‘The Black Phone’ accompanies a quiet, yet kind and resourceful 13 year old named Finney beginning in the 1970’s and following the local community’s suffering revolving around a mysterious child abductor dubbed ‘The Grabber’. Even with a somewhat difficult home and school life, Finney finds himself in a truly horrifying situation when he is taken by the dreaded Grabber and locked in a basement. Before long a disconnected old phone on the wall begins to ring and Finney realizes he can communicate to the previous victims of the Grabber through it. Now, he’ll have to take all of the help he can get if he hopes to outwit the killer and survive the ordeal, while his sister tries to help locate him on the outside with the assistance of her mysterious visions.
Directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Doctor Strange) from a screenplay that he additionally co-wrote with C. Robert Cargill (Sinister 2) which was based on the Short Story of the same name by Joe Hill, Derrickson does a magnificent job at the helm of ‘The Black Phone’ guiding along this eerie tale with plenty of gorgeous shots and a surprising amount of heart at its core. The film’s cast includes Mason Thames (TV’s Walker), Madeleine McGraw (Pacific Rim: Uprising), Jeremy Davies (TV’s Justified), James Ransone (It Chapter Two) and Ethan Hawke (The Purge) along with more. Nearly all of the cast provide solid performances for the most part in each of their respective roles, yet Hawke tends to easily steal the show with his outstanding portrayal of the film’s horrifying villain.
‘The Black Phone’ is a masterfully crafted horror film that’s as terrifying and tense as it is both beautiful and surprisingly touching at times. It does a wonderful job of taking viewers for an unsettling ride along with our young hero who finds himself held captive by a masked madman known simply as “The Grabber” who has plagued their town. Utilizing elements of real life terror, paired with a supernatural twist and a carefully designed period piece setting, it quickly grabs hold of your attention and will have you rooting for young Finney as he takes advantage of everything (and one) at his disposal in a desperate attempt to escape the horrid fate he knows is otherwise coming.
Director Scott Derrickson does a fantastic job guiding this often bleak and intense tale along and the beautiful manner in which the film is shot only helps it to excel. Add into the mix a terrific cast led by Mason Thames as our young captive who along with the other child actors do a fantastic job and help to keep us feeling for them and hoping for the best, while Ethan Hawke is nothing short of phenomenal as the terrifying baddie The Grabber, serving up a delightfully twisted and uncomfortable performance that is up with there with some of his best roles, yet at the same time drastically unlike you’ve ever seen him before (in the best way possible). I can’t encourage everyone strongly enough to make a point of giving ‘The Black Phone’ a chance if you haven’t yet had the pleasure but appreciate a well-made and truly eerie thriller with a remarkable performance by Hawke that alone makes it well worth checking out.
Overall, ‘The Black Phone’ serves up a dark, unsettling and occasionally moving thriller that’s as creepy and tense as it is visually spectacular. It smartly utilizes its 1970’s timeframe and eerie settings which each only further benefit from the capable guidance of director Scott Derrickson and a great cast that’s led by a masterful performance by Hawke who is downright terrifying as the film’s creepy villain. ‘The Black Phone’ is definitely highly recommended. A beautifully crafted and unsettling thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and rooting for the young victim within from the onset and a film that any genre fan won’t even want to consider missing out on. If you’re already even mildly intrigued by this one then it should easily prove well worth your time and the price of a rental at the very least.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Black Phone’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation with the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks great as a whole and provides a rich, smooth and beautifully detailed presentation from start to finish. It holds up capably even during the numerous darkly lit moments which are quite prominent throughout and never allows anything that’s occurring onscreen to become negatively affected, let alone rendered indiscernible. Overall, while it would have been nice to see such a beautifully shot film receive a physical 4K release, fans can rest assured that the high definition presentation included on this Blu-ray still looks pretty fantastic in its own right and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release features a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This multichannel soundtrack makes a great complement to the onscreen tension and excitement and delivers a crisp, clean and often quite aggressive audio presentation throughout. It repeatedly takes advantage of all seven available channels in order to send music, along with random noises, creepy sound effects and more throughout the various speakers at every logical opportunity, and never conflicting with any dialogue or other simultaneously occurring audio elements which all remain clean and fully audible every step of the way. Overall, this is a pretty fantastic 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack that should easily excite both fans and first time viewers.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Black Phone’ includes a decent collection of bonus content that fans of the film should appreciate. Included on the release is an ‘Audio Commentary with Producer/Co-Writer/Director Scott Derrickson’, in addition to a couple of ‘Deleted Scenes’ from the movie (running approximately 80 seconds in length combined) and the ‘”Shadowprowler” Short Film by Scott Derrickson’ (running approximately 12 minutes). We are also treated to some Behind the Scenes Featurettes exploring different aspects of bringing the film to life and featuring interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and more. The included Featurettes are ‘Ethan Hawke’s Evil Turn’ (running approximately 4 minutes), ‘Answering the Call: Behind the Scenes of The Black Phone’ (approximately 11 minutes), ‘Devil in the Design’ (5 minutes) and ‘Super 8 Set’ (2 minutes).
*Please note that the above images are taken from the Blu-Ray and resized. They will additionally suffer quality loss as a result of .jpg compression. Larger versions of each image can be viewed by clicking on the image. All images and content included on this Blu-Ray release are the property of their respective owners.
Film Rating: 9/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
‘The Black Phone’ is Now Available to Own on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from Blumhouse & Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
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