Good, genuinely chilling horror movies are not easy to come by when so many rely on jump scares, gratuitous violence and grotesque imagery to spook their audience. But the imminently released The Black Phone looks like it could be a different story with buckets of suspense, a subtley creepy villain and good old-fashioned ghosts.
Directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, Doctor Strange), the movie has been co-written by C. Robert Cargill based on the short story of the same name by Joe Hill - the son of prolific horror writer Stephen King. Some of his other well-known works include the novels Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.
Set in 1978, the premise of The Black Phone is that five children have gone missing in a quiet Colorado town. Rumour has it that a child killer known as The Grabber is responsible, and when 13-year-old Finney bumps into a mysterious magician with a black van, he wakes up in a dark basement furnished with only a mattress and an apparently disconnected black phone.
His captor, a maniac in a demonic mask played by Ethan Hawke, tells him the phone has never worked, but soon Finney begins to receive calls; calls from the ghosts of the Grabber’s previous victims. They help him to escape his captor while his sister Gwen starts having psychic dreams about what has happened to him. She knows how to find him - the question is, will anybody listen?
With Mason Thames (For All Mankind) as Finney, and Madeleine McGraw (Outcast, Ant-Man and the Wasp, The Mandela Effect) as Gwen, we’re looking at a talented young cast; plus, Ethan Hawke looks to make one of the creepiest antagonists we’ve seen all year. Apparently, he was hesitant to portray a villain as it wasn’t what he wanted to be remembered for, but he should certainly be proud to raise the hairs on the backs of our necks in just one trailer.
The A.V. Club described The Grabber as “the Pennywise-meets-Wonka child killer”; throw in a bit of the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and that’s literally it. Prepare for a few sleepless nights!
The Black Phone made its initial debut back in 2021 at Texas’ Fantastic Fest, and it’s set to be released in theatres this week on June 24th 2022.