Jeri Jacquin

Currently on Bluray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and on the streaming service Peacock from writer/director Scott Derrickson based on a short story by writer Joe Hill is the thriller THE BLACK PHONE.

It is 1978 on the streets of Denver, Colorado and a time of innocence. Finney (Mason Thames) and sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) are not living in that innocence. Being raised by an abusive father Terrence (Jeremy Davies), Finney is also being bullied at school. Saving him from one beating is Robin (Miguel Mora), who all the boys are afraid of. But there is someone lurking on the streets even more frightening than the school bullies.

Given the name “The Grabber” (Ethan Hawke), someone is grabbing boys off the street. One of the boys is Bruce (Tristan Pravong), then followed by Robin as Finney tries to keep it together. Yet, it is Gwen who is trying to avoid her dreams because they seem to be telling her what is happening. She tries to talk to her father about it but is met with an alcoholic’s response of derision.

Detective Wright (E. Roger Mitchell) and Detective Miller (Troy Rudeseal) want to speak with Gwen who tells them of her dreams of a man with a black van and black balloons. Met with skepticism, Gwen does not take any guff from anyone. On their way home from school, Gwen and Finney go their separate ways and the boy meets up with The Grabber.

Waking up in a basement, Finney realizes he is now another of the victims. The man wears a mask and speaks very little but lets the boy know that the telephone on the wall does not work. After he leaves, the phone rings and Finney answers it and hears a familiar voice telling him how to escape.

Each phone call brings Finney closer to knowing the truth about The Grabber and if he will ever get back to his family alive!

Thames as Finney carries the bulk of the film with courage, bravery and a belief in those who know more than he could ever imagine. This young actor gives up nothing as his character already knows fear and is clever which I loved. McGraw as Gwen is a spitfire, and she is not going to take anything from anyone (except maybe her father). Knowing her dreams are real, when Finney is taken – the gloves are off! I so adore McGraw’s performance!

Davies as Terrence is a tortured soul, and he makes sure that he is not alone in his misery. Constantly putting his pain onto his children, he refuses to listen to Gwen when she tries to express her dreams. Pravong as Bruce has a small role, but it sets the stage for what is to come for Finney. Mora as Robin is a boy who thought he could stop anyone, till he meets The Grabber. Mitchel and Rudeseal are cops who do not want anything to do with the paranormal but are running out of options!

Hawke as The Grabber is a man who thinks he is in control of every aspect of the kidnappings. There are twists and turns, moments of quiet madness and a boy who is not going to go down without a fight. Hawke’s character could never have anticipated such a boy would go up against him. The creepiness of Hawke’s performance is what makes the story nail biting.

Other cast include Rebecca Clarke as Donna, J. Gaven Wilde as Moose, Jordan White as Matty, Spencer Fitzgerald as Buzz, Brady Ryan as Matt, Jacob Moran as Billy, Brady Hepner as Vance and Banks Repeta as Griffin.

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Bonus Features of the Bluray include Deleted Scenes, Answering the Call: Behind the Scenes of THE BLACK PHONE, Ethan Hawke’s Evil Turn, Feature Commentary and more. Plus, SHADOWPROWLER – a Short Film by Scott Derrickson.

THE BLACK PHONE is not about gore or slash, which I so appreciate, it is about the mental anguish and then mental strength of a boy and his sister. Yes, Finney is the object of The Grabber’s game, but Gwen has an important role to play as well. The cat and mice are going at it full force and the film keeps us holding our breath.

I love that it is all done in the 70’s era because that is a time when kids roamed freely and did not consider consequences. Those of us who came up in that time remember the music, the freedom of riding a bike from dusk till dawn, school crushes, bell bottoms and bullies. It is not that child abductions did not happen then; it just wasn’t headline news except in the town where it was happening.

It was easy then for someone like The Grabber to get away with what he was doing. The film gives the feel of the era, the fright of the happenings and the proper mind bend from start to finish. The only issue I might raise is the vagueness of The Grabber’s story but then again, that is part of the mystery.

In the end – never talk to strangers!



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About the Author

Jeri Jacquin

Jeri Jacquin covers film, television, DVD/Bluray releases, celebrity interviews, festivals and all things entertainment.