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The Black Phone is a 2021 American supernatural horror film directed by Scott Derrickson and produced by Jason Blum. Written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, it is an adaptation of the 2004 short story of the same name by Joe Hill. The film stars Mason Thames as an abducted child who can communicate with the past victims of his kidnapper, portrayed by Ethan Hawke.

In January 2020, Derrickson announced his departure from directing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness due to creative differences with Marvel Studios. As a result, he decided to partner with Cargill on The Black Phone. The feature film was announced in October 2020, and filming began in February 2021. Principal photography took place for two months in North Carolina.

The Black Phone had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 25, 2021. It is scheduled to be theatrically released by Universal Pictures on June 24, 2022. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for its faithfulness to the source material, Derrickson's direction, and Hawke's performance as the antagonist.

Premise

In the 1970s, five children go missing in a suburban Colorado town. Soon after, Finney Shaw is kidnapped by a serial killer and trapped inside of a soundproof basement. Finding a disconnected phone, Finney discovers its ability to transmit the voices of the killer's previous victims, who try to help him escape. Meanwhile, his sister finds she has recurring visions that may help her find Finney.

Cast

  • Ethan Hawke as The Grabber
  • Mason Thames as Finney Shaw
  • Madeleine McGraw as Gwen Shaw
  • Jeremy Davies as Mr. Shaw
  • James Ransone as Max
  • Ray Starchan as Harrison

Production

Scott Derrickson was working with Marvel Studios on the Doctor Strange sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness when he decided to make The Black Phone with his frequent collaborator C. Robert Cargill. Given Derrickson's commitments with Marvel, Cargill began looking at other filmmakers to direct the project. As a result, Derrickson asked Cargill to postpone The Black Phone until he was available to direct; Cargill agreed and promised to wait. Soon after, Derrickson clashed with Marvel over creative differences and left in January 2020 to work on The Black Phone instead.

In October 2020, it was reported that Derrickson would direct an adaptation of the short story "The Black Phone" by Joe Hill for Blumhouse Productions, from a screenplay co-written by Derrickson and Cargill, with Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw set to star. In January 2021, Jeremy Davies and Ethan Hawke were cast in undisclosed roles. Principal photography for The Black Phone began on February 9, 2021, at EUE/Screen Gems in Wilmington, North Carolina, and around the counties of New Hanover, Brunswick, and Columbus, under the working title Static. The following month, James Ransone joined the cast, with filming concluding on March 27.

Marketing

The marketing campaign from Universal Pictures for The Black Phone began on August 25, 2021, when a trailer for the film was released at CinemaCon. In their review of the footage, Variety described the trailer as being "scarier than the COVID-19 delta variant", with Derrickson "fully flexing in his comfort zone after leaving low-budget horror", and said the film's mix of "unthinkable crimes" and "paranormal elements" could set up "the next possible franchise for Universal and Blumhouse." Screen Rant noted that the audience's reaction to the trailer was "intense".

On September 25, 2021, a teaser poster was released featuring the film's antagonist wearing white face paint and a mask with the tagline "never talk to strangers". While Screen Rant found it to be "terrifying" and said it would be "interesting to see if the film lives up to the hype", Collider said the mask in the poster evoked Lon Chaney's character from London After Midnight. Furthermore, MovieWeb wrote that the poster would "be behind your eyelids as you fall asleep tonight. When you set your peepers on the new The Black Phone poster, you just know things are not going to work out for some people. You will sleep with the night light for a few nights. And we won't be able to see Ethan Hawke again without thinking of him as the terrifying and twisted Grabber. I've heard tell of his 'no villains rule', but clearly he's thrown that out the window."

An official trailer was released online on October 13, 2021. It was described by Vulture as a "stranger danger PSA". After watching the trailer, The A.V. Club wrote that "Hawke looks to be having a ball as the Pennywise-meets-Wonka child killer."

Release

The Black Phone is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States by Universal Pictures on June 24, 2022. It was originally set for release on January 28 and later February 4 before being delayed again to June 24. The film had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 25, 2021. It will be available to stream on Universal's Peacock website 45 days after its theatrical debut.

Reception

Screen Rant describes the film's critical response as generally positive, with criticism for its repetitive format and "the number of scares" but praise for its faithfulness to the source material, Derrickson's direction, and Hawke's performance. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 100% of 11 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.8/10. Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 79 out of 100 based on 5 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

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