The Black Phone was a great lesson on how little attention I pay to movie posters. I heard it was a Joe Hill story and involved Ethan Hawke in what looked like one hell of a badass mask and that was all I needed to know. I saw one trailer and then I muted everything on Twitter and made a point of not educating myself on a single thing about this movie. I learned from Horns not to read the book before watching the film (Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Horns as a movie but I LOVED the way that book was written so the first time view of the film I felt let down) so I haven't even worked out where I can read The Black Phone yet. The hardest part was the wait because Australia didn't get the film until July 21st - a problem with films in general this year. So many movies are coming out a month+ after the US and it's hard trying to avoid spoilers.
The Black Phone is about a young teen named Finney and his younger sister Gwen. They're growing up in a hostile home environment with an alcoholic father who growls at them for making any form of noise and is all too happy to beat them with his belt. At school Finney is also tormented by three bullies but he has the protection of his friend Robin who has already proven himself not to be someone to mess with. He will kick your ass into a bloody mess but when Robin becomes the latest boy to go missing, that leaves Finney wide open. Meanwhile, Gwen is having visits from the police because she's having dreams about the missing boys which include a vital clue the police haven't told anyone. A skill Gwen inherited from her mother and something her father is far from happy about it. When Finney becomes the latest target of 'The Grabber', Gwen tries her hardest to come up with clues to help her and the police find her brother.
The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) kidnaps Finney, luring him with a magic trick and taking him home to his basement. Despite the fact Finney technically saw his face already, albeit in makeup, The Grabber only enters the basement wearing a mask to conceal his identity. The room is bare except for a mattress, a black phone on the wall and a toilet around the corner with a couple of rolled up carpets. When the phone rings, The Grabber tells him it's simply static and the phone doesn't work. When the phone rings again later, Finney answers it and hears the voice of Bruce, a boy he knew from playing baseball that went missing. Bruce tells him that the other boys heard the phone ring too but nobody heard anything, only Finney can hear their voices. Every time the phone rings it's a different missing boy, none of them remember their names but they help Finney on how to survive the ordeal and possibly escape.
I've watched The Black Phone twice now and I absolutely loved everything about it! Both Mason Thames (Finney) and Madeleine McGraw (Gwen) were outstanding in their roles, especially Madeleine. She stole every scene she was in. Nothing gets your attention faster than hearing a young girl calling two policeman "dumb fucking fartknockers".
While not knowing the story itself and how indepth it might be, I appreciated the lack of detail about the missing boys in the film. We only know that they were kidnapped and now they're dead. We don't know what happened to them so hearing The Grabber say "I will never make you do anything that you won't....like" seem so much creepier, nothing is scarier than your own imagination. Another scene where The Grabber has laid out a trap for Finney, we see him waiting upstairs shirtless and holding a belt and the scene itself is so simple but also so much more sinister than just seeing him beat on a kid. It leaves you feeling uneasy.
While watching it though, a few little things felt familiar: the creepy line that went around the basement, the Super8 style footage, the dead tree...I spent parts of the film thinking of Sinister, which isn't a bad thing because Sinister is a fucking fantastic film and one of those rare movies that really creeps you out, but this is where my 'great lesson on how little attention I pay to movie posters' comes into it. A day or 2 after watching The Black Phone I saw the movie poster pop up somewhere and it very clearly states "From Blumhouse AND THE DIRECTOR OF SINISTER". If there was a dumbass award, I might win it.
Personally, I can't wait to add this film to my collection.