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The Black Phone review


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The Black Phone

Universal

R.                 202 min

This is one of those don't judge a book by its cover or a movie by its trailers situations. If you've seen the previews or the movie posters for horror / Thriller flick THE BLACK PHONE you would assume that it was a low budget rip off of SAW. The squalid surroundings of the imprisonment area in that film and its sequels are particularly gruesome though it's a relatively inexpensive effect. You've seen the clips with a young boy Finney (Mason Thames) trapped inside one of those areas with nothing but a creepy old telephone on the wall hence the title. Unless you roll a dice on a ticket, you’d never know that there was more to it. In a way THE BLACK PHONE is an adolescent coming of age flick centered on Finney, who always seems to be the victim of the school bullies and his sister Gwen (Madeline McGraw) whose nightmares seem to come true. The backdrop is a 1970s era lower middle class suburb of Denver where there has been a rash of child disappearances attributed to a mysterious psycho nicknamed the Grabber. (Ethan Hawke) we already know from the ads that Finney will eventually become one of those kidnapped children and find himself in that terrible place awaiting the same tragic death suffered by those who preceded him. At that point the film shifts to a cat and mouse game and this is where the supernatural aspect kicks in. Finney starts getting phone calls from the ghosts of the Grabbers previous victims who guide him along the steps he will need to take to even have a chance at freedom. Meanwhile the cops are grilling Gwen about her dreams. I won't provide any spoilers but THE BLACK PHONE turned out to be much better than I'd expected. The red flags include the obviously cheap production values no extravagant sets or special effects and the whole thing looks like it was shot with a 16 mm camera. Also, with the exception of Hawke, who hasn't been on the A list for a good long time, the cast could be people right off the street. But as it turns out the whole thing is somewhat clever and mostly entertaining throughout. Also I admit I incorrectly guessed the ending but we'll talk about that at another time. Also since I try to avoid finding out too much about a film before I see it, it wasn't until the staff at the Lake 8 Cinema told me it was from a novel by Joe Hill who just happens to be the son of Stephen King. I've actually read a few of his books which are very good and quite similar to his dad's early work. You can see the similarities here in THE BLACK PHONE. So with the exception of the ill advised misdirection of the ad campaign this film was not bad at all.

B-

WSS

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