film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Black Phone 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


2021's The Black Phone is an almost neutered fright fest. At 102 nippy minutes, "Phone" combines horror with the supernatural in an uneven if not wholly avant-garde fashion. Could "Phone" have been a little scarier? I mean yeah. There are some tense moments but those moments come from the concept of 70s, school boy bullying. And does The Black Phone have a decent sense of time and place? You darn tootin. The film is late, "'Me' decade" Colorado chic, all grainy and ill-lit colored with Sweet's "Fox on the Run" grooving in the background.

Based on a short story circa 2004 and directed by the guy who helmed the first Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson), "Phone" is mean-spirited and wayward, the way it kind of was with teenagers over forty years ago. 

So let's break it all down shall we? If a Stephen King tale was made into something so compact, so compressed, it would be The Black Phone. If Super 8 had John Wayne Gacy sickos attached instead of extraterrestrial life forms, then "Phone" would suffice. Finally, if the late Jonathan Demme decided to go on substitute holiday and make something on the fly, then "Phone" would be his go-to. 

The Black Phone with its landline as proverbial star presence, is about what it says it is (naturally). Said landline helps a captive teen communicate with the past victims of a deranged killer. The teen in question is played by Mason Thames (as Finney) and his character is being held in a basement by a masked psycho named The Grabber (played by Ethan Hawke). 

A jolt here, a whip pan there, a ghostly image or two. That's what you get with The Black Phone. It's restrained stuff and its biggest bit of the unobtrusive is Ethan Hawke getting very little screen time or little rearing to his persona. He snarls and poses but whatever. The producers would rather fade away from him and back to "black". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

No comments:

Post a Comment