The black phone is best when working with as little as possible. Most of the new movie from Dr. Strange Director Scott Derrickson develops in a dirty basement, but manages to get the most out of his central enclosed space – filling it with frightening shadows and secrets that the protagonist must discover during The black phone102-minute execution time. Based on the eponymous short story of Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, the film follows a young boy who is abducted by a notorious child killer and has only a few days to escape before becoming the man’s next victim.

The film’s premise provides it with an easy-to-understand conflict and enough tension to sustain a full-length story even when The black phone in fact, he focuses on his young protagonist’s efforts to escape from the soundproof basement in which he finds himself trapped, working as a visceral, sometimes ghostly horror thriller. That’s when The black phone tries to distort its thriller plot to be compatible with certain themes of abuse and self-esteem, but the film comes out disappointingly short.

Calls from the other side

Universal Pictures, 2022

Located in the late 70s of last century, The black phone takes place in a suburban town in Colorado, which recently turned out to live in fear of a notorious child abductor known only as the “Hornbeam” (Ethan Hawke). Several children have already disappeared by the time Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), a good-natured young man from a home for violence, is drugged and caught in a basement by Hawk’s sadistic criminal. Shortly after his capture, Feeney’s nightmarish trap quickly took a surreal turn when the switched-off phone hanging from one of the basement walls began to ring.

When Feeney answers the phone, he discovers that it allows him to communicate with the ghosts of the children The Grabber has killed before. The film then follows Feeney as he tries to escape from his kidnapper’s basement, using the knowledge and advice of those who have already been caught there. Meanwhile, Feeney’s younger sister, Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), turns out to be experiencing unearthly visions and dreams, which she uses to try to find out where her brother is being held.

Gwen’s quest allows Derrickson to often break Finney’s prison in The Grabber’s basement – giving the film moments of short humor and getting rid of the claustrophobic tension in its central series. However, Derrickson, who returned to the horror genre after a brief detour at MCU, never misses a chance to increase the tension as much as possible during Grabber’s scenes in the film. A medium sequence involving a bicycle lock, in particular, ranks easily as one of the busiest sections of any film released so far this year.

Entangled in black balloons

The tomb carries Unconscious Fini into the Black Phone.
Universal Pictures, 2022

However, depriving Feeney of The Grabber in prison is not the only form of abuse portrayed in The black phone. The film’s long sequel is relentlessly violent, and that’s true, not to mention some scenes involving Feeney and Gwen’s cruel father, Terence (Jeremy Davis), one of whom sees him repeatedly beating Gwen with his belt, while Feeney helplessly watching from the other side of the room. The sequence in question is shockingly brutal and sets a vile tone that is difficult for The black phone to shake off from that moment on.

Derikson, to his credit, remains talented, as always, to make violence in his films feel visceral and authentic, but portraying real, justified forms of violence as violence against children requires a level of dexterity and sensitivity that The black phone missing. The early cases of secular violence in the film begin to stand out more, however, after certain sleepy elements are introduced.

Derrickson used the film’s main phone to recall several inspired, memorable images, such as that of a childish ghost hanging upside down in one corner of The Grabber’s basement, the young man’s presence initially clear only from the sound of their blood. which is constantly dripping on the floor. In some of the most visually inspired moments in the film, Feeney also sees the phone expand and contract at the same measured pace as the heart. Combined, these images are injected The black phone with a few refreshing, sleepy moments of a grim escape from escapism that make the otherwise overly real horror of Feeney’s situation a little easier to grasp.

Useless test

Gwen rests her head on Feeney's shoulder in the Black Phone.
Universal Pictures, 2022

As Finney, Thames spins with a surprisingly confident, measured performance. McGraw also shines as Gwen, Feeney’s violent and caring little sister, and the “ride or die” relationship that exists between Gwen and Feeney is easily the most emotionally impactful element of The black phone. Hawk, meanwhile, plays a trustworthy charismatic, upright face as the so-called villain in the film. As is usually the case with Hawk’s characters, he manages to add a few more nuances to someone who is quite thinly sketched.

But for as effective as the performances in The black phone are, nothing in the movie is strong enough to save him from himself. The film’s attempts to say something worthy of abuse are confused and vague at best, and deeply disturbing at worst. Not content to allow the film to exist solely as an exercise in tension and tension, Derrickson and co-author K. Robert Cargill try to reverse The black phone in something like a tale of Finny’s coming of age on the Thames. Therefore, the film goes out of its way in its first act to establish Feeney as a young man incapable of fighting his abusers. This is a shortcoming that the film claims to have to overcome.

In certain contexts, this would be a powerful and useful message, but it really doesn’t work here. The film’s belief in the need for retaliation is commendable, but less so when it tries to send that message while telling the story of a boy who has been repeatedly physically abused by his father. Furthermore, using imprisonment and abduction as a dramatic event that gives Finn the confidence to talk to the girl he has always been in love with is an extremely wrong idea – an idea that greatly underestimates the severity of the type of trauma. and the abuse that Finney experiences everywhere The black phone.

With that in mind, it’s hard to talk The black phone without thinking of Lee Wannell’s modern look The invisible man. This 2020 thriller attempts to use enhanced genre history as a means of exploring the complexity of abuse in the same way as The black phone right. But what The invisible man understands this The black phone Isn’t it that personal abuse, whether it comes from a parent or a partner, is not something that beat – This is something for you survive. Obviously, this is a call from the creators The black phone did not receive.

The black phone hits theaters on Friday, June 24.

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