The Black Phone (2021)
103 min|Horror, Mystery, Thriller|24 Jun 2022
6.9Rating: 6.9 / 10 from 191,823 usersMetascore: 65
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.

The Black Phone is a supernatural thriller directed by specialist horror filmmaker Scott Derrickson who also directed the successful superhero film Doctor Strange (2016). After withdrawing from the Doctor Strange sequel project due to creative differences, Scott immediately switched to this project. Scott also co-produces with longtime collaborator, senior horror producer Jason Blum. The film stars Ethan Hawke and two talented child stars, Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw. The script for the film itself is adapted from the short story of the same name by Joe Hill.

Set in 1978, a town on the outskirts of Denver, USA, is haunted by a child kidnapper called The Grabber (Hawke). Finney (Thames) is an intelligent student who is often bullied. While her sister, Gwen (McGraw), is a young teenager with unique abilities who can see reality through her dreams. The story starts to get interesting when Finney is kidnapped by The Grabber and locked in a soundproof cellar. A black phone there always rings to help Finney escape, which turns out to be the children (spirits) who are victims of The Grabber.

The script is a unique and fresh combination of the criminal and the supernatural genre. We often see the character assisted by a spirit to solve a murder case, but The Black Phone is entirely different. The ghosts are now helping him escape from his captors’ captors: some story twists, also a little surprising in the final segment. Also, the insertion of supernatural abilities that Gwen has is a gimmick in itself, although this is not the main problem. The horror side is sometimes tucked in, even if it’s just a spice. The main point is Finney’s unique communication with his victims.

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One aspect outside the script that is very supportive is the appearance of two child stars, Thames and McGraw, who are captivating. They both look natural, especially McGraw, who stole the show with her expressive appearance as an indigo girl. Her acting is reminiscent of little Emma Watson, who appeared energetic in the early Harry Potter series. This young star, like a pro, easily plays various expressions. In general, the casting of the teenage players in this film all played excellently.

The Black Phone combines crime, thriller, horror, and supernatural sides, which are fresh for the genre. Another proof that the senior producer, Jason Blum, can still produce “cheap” and quality works. The Black Phone also proves for its genre that exploration of a mix of genres can still be done in a classy way. For the filmmaker himself, I don’t know, is this small project worth it after leaving the giant project Doctor Strange 2? Only time will tell. In fact, without the filmmaker, the film was a tremendous success beyond its predecessor series.

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His hobby has been watching films since childhood, and he studied film theory and history autodidactically after graduating from architectural studies. He started writing articles and reviewing films in 2006. Due to his experience, the author was drawn to become a teaching staff at the private Television and Film Academy in Yogyakarta, where he taught Film History, Introduction to Film Art, and Film Theory from 2003 to 2019. His debut film book, "Understanding Film," was published in 2008, which divides film art into narrative and cinematic elements. The second edition of the book, "Understanding Film," was published in 2018. This book has become a favorite reference for film and communication academics throughout Indonesia. He was also involved in writing the Montase Film Bulletin Compilation Book Vol. 1-3 and "30 Best Selling Indonesian Films 2012-2018." Additionally, he authored the "Horror Film Book: From Caligari to Hereditary" (2023) and "Indonesian Horror Film: Rising from the Grave" (2023). Until now, he continues to write reviews of the latest films at and is actively involved in all film productions at the Montase Film Community. His short films have received high appreciation at many festivals, both local and international. Recently, his writing was included in the shortlist (top 15) of Best Film Criticism at the 2022 Indonesian Film Festival. From 2022 until now, he has also been a practitioner-lecturer for the Film Criticism and Film Theory courses at the Yogyakarta Indonesian Institute of the Arts in the Independent Practitioner Program.


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