Since the financial and critical success of 'Get Out' in 2017, the horror genre has found itself focused more and more on the social and political realities of the horrors and issues we face daily. The latest film to explore this, 'The Black Phone', transports us back to 1978 to when child kidnappers were on the rise.
The Grabber (Ethan Hawke, 'The Northman', 'Boyhood') is tormenting the suburban streets of Denver; he's a man with a white mask that features a permanent grin. As many young kids go missing, Finney (Mason Thames in his film debut) and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw, 'American Sniper', 'Toy Story 4') are on edge until one day, Finney becomes The Grabber's next victim. Now kidnapped, he relies on the voices of those kidnapped before him to help him escape, while his sister is left on her own to work where he might be.
SWITCH: 'THE BLACK PHONE' TRAILER
'The Black Phone' is a tense horror that often tries to throw too much at the wall despite letting one thing stick. You have this real-world kidnapper horror, but then it adds supernatural elements and then the comedy with the sister and religion that never all quite blend together. It's an edge-of-your-seat watch, but sometimes it feels in over its head; a movie about kids being kidnapped and murdered isn’t going to be light-hearted, but the story feels unconfident living within that horror so the creative team tries to mix all these other elements in.
'The Black Phone' is a tense horror that often tries to throw too much at the wall despite letting one thing stick.
The performances are the real highlight here. Ethan Hawke is terrifying as The Grabber, and while his screen time is fleeting his presence doesn't go unnoticed; this character is sure to be one of the year’s most memorable horror villains. The true stars of the show is Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw as the young brother and sister. Thames is so captivating in his performance - you look at him and instantly feel the fear he is going through. McGraw is the comedic heart of the film, and is having a lot of fun in her role.
‘The Black Phone’ is serviceable horror that tries to bite off more than it can chew, but will be remembered due to its cast elevating the material.