The Black Phone (2021) Movie Review

The Black Phone – Disturbing Horror

The Black Phone Poster

Director: Scott Derrickson

Writer: C Robert Cargill, Scott Derrickson (Screenplay) Joe Hill (Short Story)

Cast: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Ransone

Plot: After being abducted by a child killer and locked in a soundproof basement, a 13-year-old boy starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer’s previous victims.

Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: The Black Phone starts as a serial killer known as The Grabber (Hawke) has been abducting child. The neighbourhood is on edge, as Finney (Thames) and his sister Gwen (McGraw) navigate the dangers. As well as childhood problems, including bullying and domestic abuse.

When Finney becomes the latest victim of the Grabber. He gets to experience the nightmares the other children suffered. Getting warnings about how to survive. With Gwen using her own gifts to try and figure out where he brother is.

Thoughts on The Black Phone

Characters & Performances

Finney is the older brother, he gets bullied, because he won’t stand up for himself. Be it around bullies or around his abusive father. He has seen his friends taken, leaving him becoming the victim again. Becoming the latest victim of the serial killer. He must adapt to survive, learning from the previous victims, if he is ever going to survive. The character arc he goes on, is a coming-of-age style one. Needing to learn to stand up for himself, if he is going to escape what is coming his way.

Gwen is the younger sister, she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. Getting plenty of laughs for how she acts towards bullies. She does have a more interesting side though. Having the ability to dream, giving her a chance to see things, almost like getting messages from the dead. This is a part of the story, which we could have learnt a lot more about. Only touching on the idea that her mother had the same thing, with dire consequences.

The Grabber is the serial abductor and killer. He has been taking children from around the neighbourhood. This time he takes Finney, but his pleasure seems to be taken away. Leaving him becoming edgier about what to do next. Wearing sinister masks, he interacts differently each time, wanting so badly to go into ‘Split’ mode.

The performances in the film are very good. Both Mason Thames and Madeline McGraw shine, having excellent chemistry together. With McGraw getting plenty of laughs in her role. Ethan Hawke is creepy with his delivery, the masks help make him look even more sinister in the movie.


The story follows the latest victim of a child killer, learning from the previous victims. Planning his own escape from within the prison like basement he finds himself in. There is a side story of his sister searching for him, using her powers from dreams.

The story does have two very interesting concepts. Idea one, that previous victims are warning and preparing Finney, is excellent. Old ghosts coming to help has always been a firm favourite of mine. The fact they have different mindset also helps, because it shows how they have come to terms with what happened. The second one is also interesting. Having the sister with powers in dreams to see things she couldn’t. Guiding the search for her brother, even if her father disapproves.

The problem with both of these stories is, that they don’t seem to come together. Either one could have been given a deeper chance to come through, but when it comes to meeting in the middle. Something seems to feel lost.


The Black Phone is a horror mystery that will create a horrific killer. The killer wearing the creepy masks, always putting us on edge through the film. The mystery comes from why he is doing this, does he have a motive, or why did he start. Plenty of things that never really get answers. The scares in the film are solid, but most are wasted in the trailer.

Final Thoughts The Black Phone does have solid scares, wonderful performances, but fails to give the impact it desires.

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