Horror Bingo 2022: The Black Phone

Now that October is upon us, Horror Bingo has officially begun! (Don’t know what Horror Bingo is? Find out here—and join in, if you’re interested in playing! It’s my very favorite kind of entertainment: a little spooky and deeply low stakes.)

While I typically review three movies at a time, I’ve decided to go one by one again this year. Which means that today we’re just gonna focus on our first film, our free space movie: The Black Phone.

You Are Fabulous Ethan Hawke GIF by Regal - Find & Share on GIPHY

You know, this was a pretty solid way to get the Halloween season started.

Year: 2022
Director: Scott Derrickson
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service: Amazon Rental
Spoilers: Nothing you don’t see in the trailer
Grade: Chocolate

I watched Sinister a couple of years ago (for Horror Bingo, coincidentally), and while it didn’t ultimately work for me, one of the parts I really did enjoy? The creepy ghost kids. I bring this up because The Black Phone (another collaboration between Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill, and Ethan Hawke) is a whole ass movie about creepy ghost kids, and I am 100% here for it. I love every single scene between Finney and the dead boys he speaks to on the titular black phone. A few favorite supernatural moments: fight training, a ghostly scream, the backseat of a police car, and the very first time we see a ghost boy.

I also love that this is a sibling story (particularly one where the siblings actually like each other), and I enjoy watching Finney and Gwen trying to protect and/or save one another. (Seriously, don’t piss off Gwen. She will fight you, and she will go hard.) Ethan Hawke, meanwhile, is a fantastically creepy villain, effectively disturbing without wildly overplaying it, and it’s especially fun to see because Hawke so rarely, if ever, actually plays bad guys. Of course, his various masks do help with the creep factor. These freaky ass things were designed and created by Tom Savini and Jason Barker, and they are excellent. I wanna own at least one immediately.

There are a few things here that don’t entirely work for me. I enjoy all the kids, but there are a couple of times (particularly in the first act) where their dialogue feels a bit . . . inauthentic? Stagey? I’m not sure if we really need James Ransome as comic relief, either, although I don’t actually mind him. My feelings on the Jeremy Davies character, however, are decidedly more mixed. And the more I think about it, the more the last shot of the film feels a bit silly to me. It doesn’t ruin the movie or anything; I just think that, thematically, we could’ve ended on a much stronger resolution.

But overall, I really enjoyed The Black Phone. I like the use of Pink Floyd. I like the callback to the poster for Sinister, and I like the reveal we get at the end of the film. Truly, this was not a bad way to kick off October.

Next Up, Sorta: Bodies, Bodies, Bodies*

Actually Next Up: Battle Royale

*I think we’ll be able to access Bodies, Bodies, Bodies later in the month for less than $20, so I’m going to hold off on the actual watch-and-review for now. But if you’re playing along with Horror Bingo and you have these movies on your card, you can mark them down now.

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