Ethan Hawke is extremely underrated. He’s a versatile performer capable of playing both a convincing hero and villain. In The Black Phone he plays the role of a child murderer named The Grabber. His performance is unpredictable and deeply unnerving. The director, Scott Derrickson, known for Doctor Strange and Deliver Us from Evil does not shy away from showing child abuse in this film.
Kids can be evil assholes. This is highlighted in great detail with one of the main characters, Finney (Mason Thames), who is bullied both at home and in school. His younger sister, Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) shares his suffering in addition to clairvoyant nightmares. The two are underdogs who remain cheerful and optimistic despite their circumstance.
When Finney is kidnapped by The Grabber, he receives supernatural phone calls from a broken phone. Finney finds out the voices are ghosts of missing children. It’s a simple and straightforward narrative filled with suspense and elements of horror. The scariest part of the movie is the hope viewers are given. A sense of dread is present in every scene, creating an atmosphere of constant uncertainty.
As mentioned in the spoiler-free review for Prey, the antagonist is a mystery. There is no explanation for his actions nor is his backstory explored. He’s a muscular, middle-aged man, who wears a creepy devil mask. The victims of The Grabber are developed over time which makes the revelation of their demise more tragic. Scott Derrickson marries the slasher and crime drama seamlessly. The Black Phone gets a 7.5 out of 10.