synopsis: Abducted by a child killer and locked in a soundproof basement, a 13-year-old boy starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer’s previous victims.
The Black Phone’s Story is a story done by its synopsis in that a kid really does use a physically black phone to talk to the dead victims of a villain (Played by Ethan Hawk) dubbed “The Grabber” seeming like a placeholder for a proper name that never got revised.
This film follows the general plotline of a murder mystery with the films main character Fin attending school in the eighties which involves classic tropes like bullies and jean jackets. As Fin develops as the main character, he meets the kid who die just in time to move the plot forward later. Weak sub plot and world building was one of this film’s weakest points.
Sub- story lines about say the police who were inexplicably very interested in Fin’s sister and her dreams because that was their only lead. I would have loved to see how two detectives whose only lead was a little girls dreams went over at the police station. It would have added a lot to the context of the world and the storyline buildup by better defining which character believes what. Additionally, Fin’s sister Gwen who has mysterious psychic dreams about her brother’s kidnapping location and in her development, she always goes to a friend’s house on Fridays, yet that sub plot was entirely meant for Gwen to run from that house and show up at Fin’s last known location. I wish I could have seen more of what Gwen was seeing in her dreams via dialogue with her Friday friend. Because later she asks her dad to help her find fin. This sequence would have flowed better if Gwen and her friend went along on their bikes after her dad declined to help her but showed up at the end to help thus redeeming the story of the abusive father.
Ethan Hawk as antagonist in this picture did not have the chance to flesh out the character of The Grabber enough. Fin gets kidnapped by the grabber and inevitably tries to escape using the tips he gets from kids he had met or known before. Why act 2 flubs for me are because many of the beats of a good kidnapping victim sequence are avoided altogether. Fin was free to dig, tug, and break things with the same veracity of a wrecking crew while the villain character fell asleep in his chair quite literally. Although there were a few good jump scares and an escape scene that plays well, The Grabber is not a villain I care about or care to learn more about. He is a sleepy child abuse victim with a mask meant to sell the trailers.
There was a newly established trop character I personally have never seen before and that is the Max character. Max is a hilarious crackhead character with a Charlie Day mailroom style conspiracy wall all about the case of the kidnappings Max is also brothers with the killer and is completely oblivious to his brother being a murderer. Max was honestly a funny character and a trope in horror movies that I love to think about. An oblivious stoner character living with a clear murderer and finally gets it at the very end. Hilarious!
In Conclusion – I would say this film takes a lot of chances with its sequence order to tell a good story however this roll of the editorial dice fell flat. If the allegory of the villain was about being a child abuse victim and Fin had to overcome that for himself that theme was not as strong as it needed to be to dominate the plot. Instead, the lack of world building, and character development left this film with a lot of holes and a lackluster villain with a cool mask.
Popcorn film | Weak Plotline | Flimsy Villain character | Great comedic relief scenes | 6/10