Based on the short story of the same name, he wrote Joe Hillthis child Stephen King, “The Black Phone” tells the sad story of The Grabber, a child killer who kidnaps teenage boys in broad daylight never to be seen again. When Finney (Mason Thames) became the next captive, kept in a soundproof basement, he began receiving phone calls from former victims of The Grabber via a disconnected landline.
In style, the film is rather nostalgic, reminiscent of vintage photographs and the era of striped baby tees, flared jeans, and The Ramones. Warm browns and oranges, film grain, and filtered light flooded the screen. But this idyllic ’70s suburbia was marred by Derrickson’s horror.
The only distraction with the otherwise consistent color scheme is the intensity of the blood and the neon of the police lights, which makes these moments even more confusing. The weathered concrete in the basement is painted with brushstrokes of rust and blood: a mural evidence of unrestrained violence. The upbeat ’70s soundtrack is interrupted by a bassy, resonant mark that echoes in your ribs, sinks into your eardrums, and sometimes feels like you hear it from underground in the Grabber’s basement. The film’s opening credits sparkle through the nostalgic B-roll of halcyon daily events of suburban youth — popsicles, baseball games, and sunny avenue — associated with the sight of bloody knees and stacks of lost posters of people.
It’s a combination of calm and collective that faces forward as the violence creeps under not only style, but theme. Shy Finney and her strong sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), after dealing with bullies at school, go home to not raised by their abusive alcoholic father. “I’ll watch Dad,” became the pattern of dialogue throughout the film, when Finney is sent home while his sister stays with a friend. The son takes care of the father and siblings raising each other, the children protect each other from bullies while the school staff is not present during the youth fights, Gwen (with his clairvoyant abilities) leads the police investigation, and past victims talk to Finney while he is in the hands of a murderer. This community of a child-to-child support system for the loss of trusted adults makes “The Black Phone” more than just a simple story.