Black Phone: a beautiful teenage horror film, intimate and inspired [critique]

Ten years after Sinister, Scott Derrickson returns to Jason Blum and signs his best film.

We immediately understand, from the first five minutes, that Black Phone will not be a horror film like the others. That we will not be dealing here with industrial jitters, produced on the assembly line, but with something invested, felt, personal. What a delicious sensation… It’s due to a kind of “heaviness” of the image, to the time the film takes to draw a place, a world, an atmosphere. And to these child actors especially, exceptional (they are called Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw), the type to grab you by the hand with a big smile on their lips to take you gently into their worst nightmares.

Adapted from a short story wonderboy of Joe Hill funk, Black Phone recounts the exactions of a child kidnapper, the “Grabber”, in Colorado at the end of the 1970s. His new prey is called Finney, he is a 13-year-old kid who occupies his days thinking about his missing mother, hanging out with her little sister prone to terrible premonitory visions, and being beaten with belts by her alcoholic father. Sequestered by “the Seeker” (Ethan Hawke, hidden under a terrifying mask), the teenager will discover in the putrid basement which serves as his prison a telephone allowing him to communicate with the previous victims of the bogeyman…

One hour and forty minutes later, we leave impressed by the rigor of the film. Not a masterpiece, no, but a real beautiful little teen movie of horror, in line with That by Andy Muschietti, and fuel for a classicism not so common as that within Jason Blum productions. Much higher in any case than Sinister, the previous Scott Derrickson under the Blumhouse flag, released exactly ten years ago. In the meantime, the director had filmed the film debut of Doctor Strange, which has since become one of the biggest cash cows in the MCU. Missioned on episode 2, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Derrickson threw in the towel along the way, leaving the reins of the film to Sam Raimi. He returned to the Blum fold to do the exact opposite of what he was offered at Marvel: something intimate, belonging only to him. In a recent issue of the magazine EmpireDerrickson recounted his rotten seventies youth, explaining that he grew up in ” a violent neighborhood and a violent home “, where ” everyone was getting beaten up with a belt – or worse “. Starting from a desire to make a childhood portrait The 400 blows, he finally found an echo to his own story in the poetic and glaucous imagination of Joe Hill, extraordinary follower of the work of his father Stephen King when it comes to finding limpid allegories to tell the traumas of the childhood, and the hope of escaping it. In any case, we understand better, by reading this interview with Derrickson, why in Black Phone the monsters are so scary, the children are so sad and the blows hurt so much.

By Scott Derrickson. With Ethan Hawke, Mason Thames, Madeleine Mcgraw… Duration: 1h47. Released June 22, 2022

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