The Black Phone review: Worthwhile performances rein in the horror

horror movie black phone In 1978, the choice of venue is very intentional. It’s an excuse for director Scott Derrickson to use the same kind of screeching needle drops from the ’70s — in this case, the nostalgic sounds of Edgar Winter Group, Pink Floyd, Sweet, and Chic — as also seen in Warner Bros’ final two segments. Stephen King adaptation He. She. It also brings realism to a barrage of scenes where kids are ruthlessly bullying and spitting at each other with a caring adult in sight. This leads to the product that is most effective in setting the film period: a distinct sense of danger.

The late 1970s weren’t the heyday for serial killings in America. (It wasn’t until the mid-1980s.) But a number of high-profile cases dropped during that era, along with the birth of televised murder trials and rising overall crime rates, the stories helped spark paranoia in the general public. However, attitudes about raising children have not yet caught up with this concern. With the ‘Stranger Peril’ campaigns of the 1980s still a few years away, 1978 was prime time for unsupervised children being dragged into unmarked pickup trucks.

Based on a short story written by lock and key And the NOS4A2 Author Joe Hill, black phone That fear exploits early on, with wide shots of rickshaws lurking behind groups of children walking home from school along with close-ups of missing children flyers on community bulletin boards. Siblings Vinnie (Mason Thames) and Gwen (Madeline McGraw) are well aware of the rumors behind these disappearances, attributed to the local bogeyman known as “The Grabber”.

Child victim Vinnie Shaw (Mason Thames) stands alone in a dark room, holding a black phone, in a Black Phone.

Photo: Universal Pictures

A popular superstition says that anyone who says The Grabber’s name out loud will be the next to be kidnapped. Vinnie believes that legend opens him up to make fun of his younger sister, Gwen. But his fear turned out to be justified. First, his best and only friend, Robin (Miguel Cazarez-Moura), a tough kid who loves horror movies, falls victim to The Grabber (Ethan Hawke, a different villain working on the MCU series). moon knight). Vinny himself is then kidnapped, and wakes up on a sloppy mattress in a concrete cell in the basement of a shabby anonymous home in a low-income Denver neighborhood.

Much of the film takes place in the basement of The Grabber, as is the entire Hill original story. Here, Vinny communicates with the disembodied voices of The Grabber’s five previous victims through Black phone from the address. (The cord is cut, but the phone is still ringing. Scary!) Each of these boys has tried to escape from The Grabber in their own way, and each one rings Vinnie to give him tips on how to survive where they can’t. The key is no resistance. As one of the boys explains, “If you don’t play, he can’t win.”

All of these items are chilling. And the black phone He has a bleak sense of helplessness, especially in the slow motion overhead shots gliding over groups of adults with flashlights, searching for children the audience knows are already dead. Institutions fail children on every level in this movie: parents are alcoholic or absent, if not outright abusive. The detectives are so incompetent, all their best readers come from Gwen’s prophetic dreams. (Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. It’s no wonder there’s a brainy kid in the mix.)

out of a sense of pathological inevitability, black phone in a mess. The main issue are the performances that range from bewilderment to outright insult. Jeremy Davis is particularly bad as Vinnie and Gwen’s drunken dad, whose screaming and screaming isn’t really pathetic to begin with. or A threat. Hawk is also too ubiquitous to read as scary: When we first see The Grabber, his face is painted white and he speaks in an emotionally high voice that remembers him. AtlantaTeddy Perkins. weird right? What is he trying to point out, and how does it fit into his psychosis? It doesn’t matter – this is the first and last time the character details have appeared in the movie.

Ethan Hawke wears his demonic mask as a child serial killer The Grabber in The Black Phone

Photo: Universal Pictures

In later scenes, Hawk vacillates between childlike innocence and snarling, but without the commitment that makes similar performances so disturbing. (I think James McAvoy throws himself into his multiple characters in split, ripfor example.) With a mask covering at least half of his face at all times, The Grabber’s intense vocal performance and his quirky “naughty boy” game could have helped elicit gasps from the audience rather than laughter.

outside the cellar, black phoneTone problems are getting worse. There is nothing so terrible in the movie as the famous leper vomiting series “Angel of the Morning” in It’s: Chapter Two But the film’s oscillations between comedy and horror are similarly unearned and ineffective. Add jump scares that do nothing but add visual interest to the recurring scenes of Vinny talking on the phone in an empty room, and black phone He manages to preserve everything that made Hill’s short story so creepy and undermine it at the same time.

black phone It debuts in theaters on June 24.

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