Cinema Review: The Black Phone

Posted 4 months ago in Cinema Reviews

NCH – 25 sep-3 oct-22 Desktop


Director: Scott Derrickson

Talent: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, James Ransone, Ethan Hawke

Release Date: June 22

Based on a short story by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, The Black Phone plays like a cosmic horror of the everyday, the world created is familiar, yet what is most frightening remains out of sight.

The 1970s style lighting and lens used by cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz creates a nostalgic feel for small town life in seventies America. However, this nostalgic illusion is shattered by the presence of ‘The Grabber’, a serial killer magician who is played terrifically by Ethan Hawke.

Much like the Lynchian take on the small-town American Dream life, something disturbing lurks beneath, here in the form of a basement where ‘The Grabber’ hides his victims with a phone that does not work. His latest victim Finney (Mason Thames) can hear this dead phone ringing and communicates with the voices of murdered children.

This means that there is both a spiritual and a physical space in The Black Phone, and in fact the production designer Patti Podesta and director Scott Derrickson discussed the basement as being a “metaphysical, expressionistic space where terror is constantly present.”

The production design and cinematography of this liminal space is contrasted by the dreams of Finney’s younger sister Gwen (Madeline McGraw) which were shot on Super 8 film in order to achieve the feel of a dreamy vision. Gwen also has the ability to access the spiritual space but she does so by praying for God to send her dreams in which she sees the children who go missing, edging these dreams closer to reality.

Ultimately, the dreamy aesthetic created here juxtaposes with the dark space of the basement become one. The overall cinematographic naturalism depicts a horrific reality where the wall between fantasy and reality has collapsed.

Words: Sophie Brennan


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