Since reaching international prominence in 2009 thanks to Paranormal activitythe producer blumhouse –until then specializing in telefilms and documentaries for television– has been one of the main creative powerhouses of contemporary horror cinema. Films made under the umbrella of the company founded by Jason Blum They were characterized, in a first stage, by their artisan imprint, the attempt to escape from the most common places of the genre, dramatic arcs that develop without pressure and the non-negotiable belief that the best scares come less from the shock effects than from the ability to create worlds haunted by the supernaturalwith the night of the devil, Sinister Y Oculus: the reflection of evil as main exponents. With the exception of the supernatural, these characteristics were prolonged over time, with the seasoning of an openly political patina, as evidenced by Flees!, Ma and the saga The Purge. Brand new production from the house of Blum, the black phone It follows paths that are very similar to those of that first stage, although the fantasy –and phantasmagorical– elements enter with forceps.
the angel director Scott Derrickson had already shown to have a good narrative pulse for the genre in Emily Rose’s exorcism and the aforementioned Sinistertwo films with which the black phone It has multiple points of contact. An introduction where, more than fear, there is an ubiquitous sinister air, for example. It is the one that emanates Finney’s routine (Mason Thames), who gets hit really hard at school and at home… too: Dad was widowed a while ago and when he’s not busy getting drunk, he swats his son and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw). And he does it with an unusual cruelty in these washed-up times, congested with movies and series that, following in the footsteps of stranger things, limit the discoveries of children and adolescents to issues such as friendship and love. The initial references for Derrickson do not go through the fables of Netflix’s star product, since his is closer to Item. That the action takes place in the late ’70s, between the two time periods covered by Stephen King’s novel, pays off that affiliation, as well as the fact that one of the climactic scenes seems to be a carbon copy of the first kidnapping.
There is also here kidnappingsalthough conceived not by a clown but by a man (Ethan Hawke) who travels in a black van and releases balloons after capturing a new victim. Black balloons instead of her “colleague’s” red ones. Absolutely nothing is known about that man, who covers his face with a mask and his criminal intentions, with soft manners and affected voice, not even his name (they nickname him “the kidnapper”), thus becoming one of those villains with no motivation beyond the pursuit of personal enjoyment. One by one, several of Finney’s friends and classmates will fall, including the only one who defends him at school. With him gone, he returns to collect in a nice way in the yard. When his sister wants to defend him, he ends up on the floor, crying profusely and kicking his mouth.
So far, then, it is a cruel, sadistic, very dark film about childhood. The paradox is that this lasts until Finney ends up inside the black truck first and locked in a basement later, that is, until the situation that could bring the highest doses of violence. Here Derrickson uses the old trick of the talkative ghosts eager for revenge, who to top it off are better than Lassie and help Finney – who gets dirtier when his classmates hit him than after he’s kidnapped – by talking to him through a disconnected phone. the black phone thus becomes a claustrophobic thriller focused on the attempts to escape from that basement, while the sister contributes her own through dreams and visions. The perversion vanishes with the last black balloons.
6 – THE BLACK PHONE
(The Black Phone/United States, 2021)
Direction: Scott Derrickson
Screenplay: C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson
Duration: 102 minutes
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Mason Thames, Jeremy Davies, James Ransone, and Madeleine McGraw.
Theatrical release only