The Black Phone

The Black Phone
Original title:The Black Phone
Director:Scott Derrickson
Running time:102 minutes
Release date:24 june 2022
Finney Shaw, a shy but intelligent 13-year-old, is kidnapped by a sadistic killer who locks him in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a telephone hanging on the wall, though out of order, starts ringing, Finney will discover that he is in contact with the voices of his captor's previous victims. They are as dead as they are determined that their sad fate will not become Finney's.

Mulder's Review

The director and scriptwriter Scott Derrickson never ceases to surprise us and confirms once again that he is a master of horror like his illustrious predecessors such as John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper. His new film shows that he knows perfectly how to create a disturbing atmosphere without resorting to spectacular special effects or liters of blood on the screen. It is easy to understand that his childhood finds a particular echo in Joe Hill's short story and that this film is particularly important to him in order to exorcise in a certain way his personal inner demons. 

From the collection of short stories 20th Century Ghosts published in October 2005 in England and then in the United States in October 2007, this short story by Joe Hill (fis of Stephen King) has marked the memory of the readers who have read it, especially the director of this film. In this short story John Finney is a 13 year old student who is kidnapped by a man named Al. Trapped in a basement room. Things take an even more disturbing turn when a disconnected (black) phone hanging on the basement wall starts ringing at night and lets out whispers of the kidnapper's previous (and now dead) victims. 

The screenplay co-written by Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill takes the same plot as this short story by developing the characters also reinforces the disturbing climate of the film while setting the year in the late 70s. The very realistic reconstitution of this period and the perfect rhythm of the film immerse the spectators in a disturbing atmosphere in which a young hero will have to fight against a dangerous psychopath who killed many children. While discovering this film it is also impossible not to think of the horrific classics of the 70's which marked the cinema, in particular the film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) which is clearly quoted in one of the scenes at the beginning of the film. It is also impossible not to think of Stephen's shadow on the original short story by Joe Hill of which he is the father. The fantastic is thus brought little by little in a realistic world in which a dangerous psychopath wearing a mask seems to take a malicious pleasure to psychologically torture children's games. 

After having marked our memories with horror films such as Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Sinister (2012), Deliver Us from Evil (2014), Scott Derrickson has established himself as one of the current masters of horror cinema. His cinema is immersive and knows how to play perfectly with the nerves of the spectators. If The Black works so well, it's because the scriptwriters have found the perfect approach to offer a frightening thriller in which the fantastic is present only through the premonitory dreams of Finney Shaw's sister and the presence of this phone allowing to communicate with the former victims of this dangerous psychopath. By putting the film at the level of the children's eyes of this small town of Colorado and by managing to plunge the spectators in the 70's by a perfectly mastered reconstitution, The Black Phone succeeds where many horror films are not, that is to say to make really frighten and to make the spectators jump on their armchairs. The film also gives the impression that director Scott Derrickson benefits from a real artistic freedom far from the constraints of American blockbusters like Doctor Strange (2016). 

While some film adaptations of short stories often tend to lack rhythm or ideas, The Black Phone is the perfect model of what a big screen transposition should be. The script that keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way through, the inspired direction of a gifted director who never tries to resort to simplicity, and the inspired and perfectly directed actors make The Black Phone one of the must-see films of this year, especially the best thriller seen in theaters for a long time.

The Black Phone
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Screenplay by Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Based on The Black Phone by Joe Hill
Produced by Jason Blum, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Starring Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, James Ransone, Ethan Hawke
Cinematography : Brett Jutkiewicz
Edited by Frédéric Thoraval
Music by Mark Korven
Production companies : Blumhouse Productions, Crooked Highway
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates : September 25, 2021 (Fantastic Fest), June 22, 2022 (France), June 24, 2022 (United States)
Running time : 102 minutes

Seen on June 17, 2022 at Gaumont Disney Village, Room 8 place A19

Mulder's Mark: