Get in loser, we’re going to Ethan Hawke’s escape room. Don’t worry, The Black Phone isn’t scary (unless you have an irrational fear of Ethan Hawke). It is a beautiful ride though.

The Black Phone is a 2021 supernatural horror movie that follows the story of abducted child Finney Blake (Mason Thames). The film is a Blumhouse production based on Joe Hill’s short story of the same name.

The film takes place in a 1970s Denver suburb where Finney becomes the latest target of the Grabber killer (Ethan Hawke). I’ll start first by saying that what I do like about the film is that it beautifully shot and acted. There are rolling hills and tree-lined streets in suburbia

The crux of the story is basically this: Finney lives with his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) in their house in Denver and they have an abusive father who beats the shit out of them every night. Their mom “killed herself” so the dad beats them and gets drunk as hell. The dad Terrence (Jeremy Davies) is not well cast and the acting isn’t great. His mullet wig feels a little off and the scenes are not really unnerving.

Although The Black Phone has an R rating, there isn’t any overt on-screen violence. So if you are affected by scenes of children being abducted or violence against children, everything’s off-screen. I don’t know why it got this rating. Maybe because the kids say “fuck” a lot?

Finney is the 13-year-old boy that gets abducted, and we see the world through his eyes. He discovers a disconnected phone on the basement wall after being locked in and he uses it as a way to try to get out. He gets calls from The Grabber’s previous victims with escape room hints.

Although the acting is phenomenal and the costumes are great, I don’t understand this obsession with the Seventies and the Eighties; this Stranger Things / Stephen King trend. Filmmakers have gone to this well too much in horror lately. I think Blumhouse may be getting lazy. I mean, I haven’t even seen Stranger Things and it looks to be a Stranger Things knock-off.

I watched the movie and 27 minutes in I thought, “Damn, how beautiful this is. How well scripted.” And then half an hour passed, and then an hour passed, and then an hour and a half passed, and then two hours passed.

The plot is essentially, the Grabber abducts Finney, then the kid tries to escape. That is a two-hour movie?

So I started to get really angry. I’m not going to spoil it for you because literally the only excitement of the film is does the kid escape? So I’m not going to take that from you, but I just I got angry.

I got angry because I started to think this isn’t a horror movie. Finney and Gwen are bad ass little kids, but I just got so angry. If I have to see another gang of white boys riding around on bikes solving crimes in their neighborhood while their parents fucking drunk and beat the shit out of them, I’ll throw my iPhone through the window. Like I started to get irrationally angry at this film because yeah, we get it is a period piece. But do we need to watch kids walk home from school in ponchos for two hours?

There’s no violence; there’s no gore; there’s no suspense. Like wouldn’t it be cool if you didn’t know whether the phone is really ringing, or the kids were really dead? Wouldn’t that be fascinating if you spent two hours in the movie wondering, wow are the kids dead? Is the phone ringing? No, we’re twenty minutes in and we know the phone’s not really ringing and the kids are ghosts.

Ethan Hawke was great in Sinister but he’s not a believable killer. I’m not saying hot people can’t be killers. The House of Wax remake actor Brian Van Holt played both killers and is hot AF. Still.

He’s so hot I tried to watch Cougar Town because he’s in it.

I’m not saying killers can’t be hot. I’m saying hot stupid celebrities can’t play killers. I mean hot Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates didn’t work. Zac Efron? No. Just no.

Ethan Hawke is not a believable kidnapper. if Ethan Hawke pulled up in his van, he would not need balloons or GHB to get me in there. I’m not alone in this. When The Black Phone dropped, it got responses like:

“I’d let Ethan Hawke beat me with a belt NGL!”

“If Ethan Hawke kidnaps me, do NOT prosecute him, he caught ME slipping!!”

“Homeboy had a face mask and provided dinner? Call me!”

This movie was also likely made by men who have highly underestimated how poorly men have treated half their audience. The Grabber is a typical American dude, and his behavior isn’t foreign. The Black Phone writers claim this isn’t based on a true story. That makes no sense because white dudes abduct children in vans and kill them every day. Sorry. Let me guess, you think I Spit on Your Grave was made up too? Grab a blanket and go back to Disney Plus.

An hour and a half in, I just didn’t understand the point of the implied horror. It’s implied that Grabber likes little boys. It’s implied he kills kids. It’s implied that the grabber uses GHB.

Am I mad at Jason Blum for just cashing a check without having to make fake blood?

I just don’t understand how you can make a child abduction film without emotion. Why are the parents not more upset? I mean, I know Terrence don’t care – he’s twenty five PBRs in the wind. I just can’t sit around and watch another two-hour horror movie in brown and orange, or maybe I just miss 80s horror. Maybe I just want some short shorts and tits, big blood, a fucking chainsaw, a decapitation, a disembowelment.

I also think character is an issue. We need real backstories. We can’t Rob Zombie “his dad hit him” our way through every villain story. We need motivation. We need substance.

So who is the Grabber?

He ain’t shit. He’s no Jigsaw. He’s no Ghostface. His name is Albert Shaw and he is a magician? How did I not pick up on that at all? I watched this whole two hours. I’m like here’s a man, balloons, a mask and I just figured he was a fucking hipster. Okay fine, he literally says, “I’m a part-time magician” to the boys, so I guess I missed that.

According to the internet, he tortures children, but it wasn’t in the film. He doesn’t even have a tagline! He just says “You don’t need to be scared because nothing bad is going to happen to you here. You got my word, Johnny.” That’s terrible dialogue. “Hang up the phone now.” “Want to see a magic trick?”

I think half of these lines were lifted directly from Scream right? He says “I’ll gut you like a pig” instead of a fish which was in Scream, taken from who knows what. The dialogue in this was supposed to be late 70s but they decided not to do the period piece dialogue… of course. Because no one ever does. Sigh.

I don’t know. I guess I’ve just been on dates worse than this. Like a dude throws you in the basement and gives you nothing to eat but Sprite and mac and cheese? And then won’t share whatever else he’s got going on? I’ve been in whole-ass relationships like that. So I don’t understand what the point is to be made here. When Finney is home, he’s beaten within an inch of his life and so is his sister, Gwen. His father tries to kill them multiple times and when he’s abducted, he’s treated better, given a bigger bed, and is actually given help from the black phone ghosts, so what is the fucking point? This is where I just don’t know if I hated this movie or I hate my life.

Should we care that a boy is abducted from a place that is hellish and then brought to a place that is better? It’s literally just watching one kid switch foster homes and then play an escape room. I don’t know. I’m not saying horror has to be all beer, tits, and gore. The 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street remake didn’t have tits or beer but I loved it. NOE was a bunch of emo high schoolers taking ADHD meds and hunting Freddy. That remake was not conventional horror, but they did light Freddy’s ass on fire and have big Michael Bay-sized explosions. Violence does have a function in horror.

My main issue with The Black Phone I guess, seems to be that Finney was abducted and given similar conditions than he was abducted from… and then presumably returned to this condition. I think that’s a major failing because the audience is supposed to care about this kid, right? But to remove Finney from one abusive attempted-murder-horrible-food situation and then place him with a different fucked up white dude? With different Kraft mac and cheese? Is there a difference? And then if he escapes, it is only to presumably return to his abusive father Terrence? Who could kill him any minute? So is there a deep philosophical question to this film or are there just fucking questions?

I don’t care if there’s a plot hole. That’s fine. But with an abduction movie, we need to want the kid to get out. But knowing that the kid is going to just be placed back with a different rage-filled killer, I think that’s a problem (Yes, I think Terrence killed their mom or tried to). As an audience member, I’m being forced to not care about kids getting abducted.

It just doesn’t make sense and feels like Finney escaped Jigsaw and then went back to Leatherface. What’s the fucking point? I guess I found my answer. My relationship with horror is broken and I am fucking depressed. I also don’t think this was a very good movie. I

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