The Black Phone (2022)
When Scott Derrickson pulled out of making his second Doctor Strange movie for Marvel because of creative differences, some of us looked metaphorically at one another upon hearing the news, shrugged our shoulders and got ready to wave him off to whatever hole he had originally crawled out from. The guy has certainly earned his stripes, given a career that has brought us to this - the film Scott made instead.
"Jesus, what the fuck? I mean seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?!"
If you had a few seconds to look at this, you might reasonably believe that Stranger Things has had an overarching impression on him, choosing to place this when and where he has. Eighties Americana is de rigeur and rose-tinted at the present time, thanks largely to the likes of the Netflix TV show, so his plan would seem to be a winner if only for the world he decides to present to us.
The real find here however, in a horror movie that is more mystery thriller than corpse-laden blood-soaked fright fest (discounting an axe firmly implanted in a head with a suitable amount of enthusiasm) is the performances. Grabber Ethan Hawke can usually be relied upon to deliver whatever is asked and that is just as true here. I am referring more to the great jobs performed by Mason Thames as Finney and Madeleine McGraw, who plays his younger sister Gwen. McGraw especially was outstanding and she must be on course for great things.
The plot is relatively simple. The eighties diorama is set in order to gather mindsets and hierarchical structure, between the adults and the kids who will feature as time goes on, and the relationships between the kids and their own peers. Then The Grabber, already a notorious child kidnapper, takes one child too many. This time he was going to get one that would fight back and smart enough to do so.
With the help of his sister. And Jesus, of course.
What follows is a relatively vanilla approach to kidnapping. The eponymous phone sits in the basement where the Grabber hold his victims before their promised grisly end. It rings curiously, despite not being connected whilst Finney is incarcerated. On the other end of the line, we are led to believe are the voices of The Grabber's previous victims, giving him tips on how to escape from the situation in which he unfortunately finds himself.
Frankly, it doesn't make much in the way of sense for the most part and the religious overtones and supernatural elements will make any viewer lose faith in the authenticity of the story. Which is fine, if the suspension of disbelief is propped up by entertainment. We can overlook alot of cobblers, if its fun to look at. And there are so many threads left dangling and unanswered questions included here, it really is pushing its luck to retain its audience. As I say, the performances go a long way to impress where other parts may do the picture more harm than good.