Review: The Black Phone

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Mason Thames is excellent in the lead of a suspenseful, thrilling The Black Phone that, although cursed with pacing issues and some plot holes, delivers the goods in an exciting third act.

Finney (Thames) is abducted by a mysterious man known only as “The Grabber” (Ethan Hawke), his only chance at survival being his instincts and the voices on the other end of a disconnected black phone that allows the killer’s previous victims to communicate with him. Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has crafted an edge-of-your-seat mystery thriller that certainly keeps audiences guessing, but takes its sweet time to get there. The first half hour is a monotonous slug through 1970’s adolescence before even getting to the actual focus of the film. Once Finney is kidnapped, Thames largely carries the film with Ethan Hawkes villain popping in for delightfully creepy moments that ratchet up the tension. These moments are accompanied by a few truly startling moments that had me leaping from my seat.

The problem with The Black Phone is that the plot is razor thin with kids getting abducted, a supernatural element present, and no explanation as to why. Suspending logic during films is one of my favorite pastimes, but even the there needs to be some sort of sense that can be made. There is the questionable inclusion of James Ransone’s character who, without getting into the details, probably should have been able to discover what was happening, but somehow did not. Add in Madeleine McGraw as Finney’s sister, a strong young character with some absolutely hilarious lines, and you have a plot device that is convenient, though unexplained.

In the end, The Black Phone is an unsettling ride that truly nailed it in the third act thanks largely to Thames’ acting; the kid is a star in the making. It’s not the scariest movie out there, but it has enough moments to satisfy horror fans and casual viewers alike.

The Black Phone hits theaters this Friday.

Rating: 3/5

Photo from Bloody Disgusting

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