The Black Phone sees Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson reteam with Sinister star Ethan Hawke for what reviews say is a chilling horror film.
The Black Phone reviews hype up the new horror movie from Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson. While this is his first feature since his work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Derrickson had previously made a name for himself in the horror genre, directing films like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. The Black Phone is currently slated for release on January 28, 2022.
Derrickson’s film adapts a short story of the same name by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King and a successful horror writer in his own right, about a child named Finney Shaw who is kidnapped and held in a soundproof basement by a serial killer in 1970s Colorado. When Shaw discovers he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims through a disconnected phone, he uses their help to try and escape. Mason Thames will play Shaw, while Ethan Hawke reunites with his Sinister director to play the killer.
The Black Phone just had its premiere at Fantastic Fest over the weekend, and early reactions to the Blumhouse production should get horror fans’ attention. Reviews praise Derrickson and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill’s adaptation of Hill’s story, which takes the opportunity to flesh out the characters from their short-form versions, and emphasize the film’s thrilling darkness. Hawke’s portrayal of the serial killer nicknamed “The Grabber” is especially praiseworthy, and terrifying:
Eric Vespe, /Film
For my money, The Black Phone is more complete and effective than Derrickson’s previous horror movie Sinister and is the first feature adaptation of Joe Hill’s work that demands more big-screen Joe Hill adaptations.
Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting
[Hawke’s] portrayal goes far to convey the abject menace long before we see the aftermath of his depraved work. There are shocking bursts of violence and scares, but none of that holds a candle to Hawke’s decisive turn.
Marisa Mirabal, IndieWire
…The Black Phone is a violent zeitgeist of a horror film that captures the audience’s emotions as quickly as the film’s antagonist kidnaps children in broad daylight.
Jason Bailey, The Playlist
Derrickson can build a mood and craft creepy imagery, and he moves his camera with precision. But this feels like a notebook of compelling visual and narrative ideas that never quite fit together, that can’t quite manage to coalesce into coherence.
THE BLACK PHONE was great & creeped me the eff out. Ethan Hawke is absolutely disturbing here & I 🖤ed its retro vibes (I’m a sucker for anything set in the year I was born). Killer performances from Mason Thames & Madeleine McGraw (McGraw steals the movie tbh). #FantasticFest pic.twitter.com/kQdHEyh4jr
— Heather Wixson (@thehorrorchick) September 26, 2021
Though reactions seem to be very positive in general, The Black Phone receives some criticism for settling into a pattern after its first act, as well as for the number of scares, which might be more scarce than horror fans would like. Other reviewers, however, point out that the higher level of heart compared to Sinister is in part the result of its source material, with Vespe in particular describing the combination of heart and horror as “the Joe Hill sweet spot.” There were also some dissenting opinions on the characterization, which Bailey felt was too surface-level in spite of the compelling performances.
However, these early reactions should have genre fans excited for The Black Phone. Viewers who loved Sinister are getting a chilling re-teaming of Derrickson and Cargill, while those who didn’t are promised a different ratio of character development and horror set pieces that might be more to their liking. Fans of Hawke’s varied work might even be tempted to check out The Black Phone to see a rare villainous turn from the acclaimed actor – as long as they can stomach what looks to be a very bleak film.
Next: Every Upcoming Horror TV Show Releasing Fall 2021
Source: Various (see above)
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