The Black Phone: ghosts on the line

Adapted from a short story by Joe Hill and directed by Scott Derrickson, to whom we owe the very dismal Sinisterthe feature film The Black Phoneavailable this week in 4K, Blu-ray and DVD, has everything to please fans of horror films.

Following the suicide of his wife, Terrence Blake raises his two children alone. The bonds between brother and sister are particularly strong, as if Finney and Gwendolyn were welded together by the violence and beatings of their alcoholic father. In this year 1978, the kidnappings of teenagers, committed by a criminal whom the media nicknamed “The Seeker”, multiply in the modest neighborhood of Denver where the family lives. Already five young people are missing when, one day, it is Finney’s turn to be kidnapped by this man driving a black van. In the cellar where he is locked up is a black telephone. Although the wire is pulled out, the ringtone is heard. At first there is only frying on the line, but gradually the abductees before him, and presumed dead, start talking to him, giving him advice on how to escape. . Will this supernatural help be enough for Finney to escape the fate that awaits him?

The case cover

Scott Derrickson directed the first Doctor Strangebut above all Sinister, which is, in my opinion, the best horror film of the last ten years. So my expectations were high for The Black Phone, his most recent feature film (especially since it’s an adaptation of a short story by Joe Hill, a talented author following in the footsteps of his illustrious father Stephen King), and I must admit that I was not disappointed by the feature film. Despite its unattractive name, “The Catcher” is an unforgettable villain with an iconic look, with his demon mask with a frozen grin. As is often the case with stories of child abduction, the script is intense, but mostly eschews conventional formulas and the usual horror clichés to create a truly original work. The plot begins in a very down-to-earth way, but little by little, the supernatural creeps into the story. The relationship between Finney and his sister Gwen also brings a very human dimension, and very touching, to the whole.

Flawless period reconstruction, earthy colors and use of grainy images reminiscent of Super 8 films: you would think that The Black Phone was shot in the late 1970s if not for its high definition resolution. Although the majority of the feature film takes place in a poorly lit cellar, the outdoor scenes are successful, especially those in the working-class neighborhood plastered with wanted notices, which add to the feeling of constant threat hovering over the plot. For the first time, Ethan Hawke embodies a villain, which he should do more often, since he is absolutely terrifying in the role. Wearing a mask most of the time, he effectively communicates emotion through his eyes and voice alone. Mason Thames, who plays the title character Finney Blake, delivers a pleasantly surprising performance for a young actor. Same thing on the side of Madeleine McGraw, very endearing in the skin of Gwen, her sister with the gifts of clairvoyance.

Still from the movie

The Combo-Pack version of The Black Phone includes the film on Blu-ray and DVD discs, and contains a code to download a digital copy. Along with two cut scenes and a director’s commentary track, there’s a fair amount of additional material. Co-writer C. Robert Cargill and actors Mason Thames and Ethan Hawke talk about the character of “The Catcher” in a first review. Another addresses the challenges of adapting Joe Hill’s short story, inspired by the John Wayne Gacy story, and the emphasis of this story on young protagonists. A third document is dedicated to the period reconstruction, and to the design of the famous mask, created by Jason Baker and the legendary Tom Savini. The last focuses on the choice to film certain sequences in Super 8. A very interesting twelve-minute short film by Scott Derrickson, entitled shadowprowlercompletes the program.

Without being as good as Sinister, The Black Phone is still above the average for feature films of the genre. Driven by an original script, subtle direction, and solid performances from Mason Thames and Ethan Hawke, this is definitely one of the best horror films of the year.


The Black Phone

Achievement: Scott Derrickson

Script: Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill (from the short story by Joe Hill)

With: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Ransone and Miguel Cazarez Mora

Duration: 103 mins

Format : Combo Pack (Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy)

Language : English, French and Spanish

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The Black Phone: ghosts on the line –