In the cinema: Kid versus killer in The Black Phone

The black phone (NC16)

103 minutes, opens July 21

4 stars

The story: It’s the 1970s and Finney (Mason Thames) is a 13-year-old boy struggling with bullies at school and problems at home, where his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) and father Terrence (Jeremy Davies) live. ). His town has been terrorized by a kidnapper nicknamed The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), who makes Finney his latest victim. Trapped in a soundproof room, the boy finds help from an unexpected source.

Two reasons to watch this horror work from Sinister (2012) director Scott Derrickson:

1. Nasty on the edge

At the center of the film is Finney’s difficult adolescence – he has problems at home and at school because of a character flaw. The psychologically manipulative Grabber exploits this flaw at every turn.

Hawke doesn’t get much screen time, but his performance as a brooding, sadistic kidnapper – a man ready to explode into violence at a moment’s notice – makes the Grabber one of the best villains in recent memory. .

2. The Stephen King vibe comes full circle

If the idea of ​​1970s children allied with supernatural force to fight a great evil sounds familiar, it’s because horror master Stephen King used this setting for the novel It (1986). The Black Phone is adapted from a short story by King’s son, writer Joe Hill, which pays unabashed homage to his father’s style.

Hill should be allowed to steal from his father. After all, the Duffer Brothers plundered the King playbook for the highly enjoyable Netflix series Stranger Things (2016-present).

To director Derrickson’s credit, The Black Phone isn’t a total King clone. Instead of relying on a music-driven retro vibe and small-town nostalgia of kids on bikes, the director focuses on Finney’s brutal coming-of-age story.

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About Laura J. Bell

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