Long before Doctor Strange, director Scott Derrickson was mostly known for cooking up major spooks – from The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, to early Blumhouse hit Sinister. The latter still feels somewhat underrated as a properly scary (and, yes, sinister) mainstream horror flick, with a sharp script from C. Robert Cargill and an engaging lead performance from the ever-great Ethan Hawke. And now, the band is back together after Derrickson removed himself from Multiverse Of Madness. His return to horror, The Black Phone, is an adaptation of a novella by Joe ‘Son Of Stephen King’ Hill, with Cargill on co-scripting duties and Ethan Hawke in a major role. But if you’re used to the actor being a loveable screen presence, be warned: Hawke is in full-on fear-mongering mode as a child abductor with murderous intent. Watch the trailer here:
It’s a pleasure to see Derrickson back in horror mode – even if the premise of The Black Phone is particularly dark. Set in the ‘70s, it stars newcomer Mason Thames as Finney, a 13-year-old who’s kidnapped by Hawke’s masked marauder (known colloquially as ‘The Grabber’) and held in a basement with a disconnected landline – and when that landline starts to ring it’s the spirits of The Grabber’s former victims on the other end, intent on helping Finney avoid a similar fate. Meanwhile, Finney’s sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw, previously a star of Robert Kirkman’s Outcast series) is having dreams of her brother’s disappearance that might be more like psychic visions. It’s a creepy story, and seeing Hawke in a rare villain role should be worth the price of admission.
The Black Phone had positive early reactions from its Fantastic Fest debut a few weeks back, and comes to cinemas in February 2022. In the meantime, be sure to avoid all landline phone calls – it’s likely either Ghostface or spirits trying to reach you.