FearTASTIC Vault O’FUN #117
The Black Phone (2021)
Director(s): Scott Derrickson
Writer(s): Joe Hill, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Gargil
Starring: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke
I’ll work my way backwards with this one and just let you know how I felt overall about the surprisingly entertaining flick, The Black Phone; the last 15-20 minutes of the flick has the most satisfying payoff of accumulated moments throughout the movie that would make flicks like Slumdog Millionaire proud. You realize right away that you want to watch the movie again just to see if you missed anything the first time only to make the ending even more satisfying. I found myself grinning like a child who just discovered a fun direct-to-video horror flick that had an interesting cover. It’s always nice to know that even in what feels like lifetimes being the FearTASTIC Vault keeper, I can still be pleasantly surprised.
The movie starts off as a typical kidnapper/stalker flick with Ethan Hawke playing the part of twisted torturer to perfection as he’s both unpredictable with his rage yet typical with his level of creepiness. As much as the advertisements for this flick has Hawke all over the posters with his now (probably) famous pale smiling mask, the true breakout stars are the children of this flick with siblings played by Mason Thames and Madeline McGraw. We’ve been blessed with children in macabre flicks/shows in the last decade or so with them being more endearing than annoying and this flick keeps that tradition going since both kids as main leads are distinctive in their personalities and carry the movie with youthful charm. There are other children throughout this movie that play different archetypes that really fit together for a purpose that makes the ending of the movie significantly effective.
As our main character played by Mason Thames is kidnapped by Hawke, the story starts to take a different turn in the genre of horror that was a nice twist that actually sets up the rest of the plot of the movie that is equal parts suspenseful, supernatural and VERY fun. There were plenty of times in the movie where I start to wonder how everything ties together and the writers did a great job in making you invest in the story to the point where you begin to formulate how you think it’s going to end and even then, you’ll probably get it wrong but you’ll be entertained none the less. In the midst of the main plot surrounding Mason Thames, the sister played by Madeleine McGraw has a nice side quest where her dreams may be the connection to finding her brother and again, by the time the movie ends, you realize that there is a larger web that unites all the terror brought upon by the villain.
After a second viewing, I started to think movies with various moving parts may even work better as a TV show and that’s a great indication of an entertaining story; it’s to the point where you wouldn’t mind stretching one movie into 10-12 hour long episodes. There’s enough meat in the bones in all the different characters that make you want to explore the mythos of how the interconnections of this movie works and that is a true tribute to how well the story was crafted and how the players in the story made the characters compelling.
I heard about this flick through various channels but the idea of another “Horror Indie Darling” that surprises the audience on how good it was, seemed to be a tired idea for me so yea, it took me some time to finally get around to getting to watch this movie. I was once again on business trip and realized that it was available on one of my streaming devices (I honestly cannot recall which one…definitely a first world problem). Even as the movie started, I was 80% paying attention while browsing through my phone and eating some delivered grub but about 20 minutes in, both the phone and fork work down since I was sucked into the story. By the time the movie ended, I remember downloading it on my phone so I can watch it again during an upcoming plane ride.
My Day of the Birth is coming near and it’s just wonderful to know that no matter how typical I think things are and when the convenient comfort of arrogance makes me think I’ve seen it all, I’ll be pleasantly surprised by a movie about a kid who discovers a secret within the basement of his kidnapper that may be the key to his freedom.
Thanks for making me feel young my Vault. Let’s keep it FearTASTIC old friend.