The supernatural horror film, The Black Phone, released recently, starring Mason Thames as Finney Shaw, a young and clever but shy and socially awkward 13-year-old, who is abducted by a serial killer. Set in 1978, the feature film adaptation based on the short story, The Black Phone (2004) by Joe Hill, delivers solid entertainment.

The film also stars Madeleine McGraw as Finney’s sister, Gwen, who has psychic dreams, while Jeremy Davies stars as their abusive and alcoholic father, Terrence. Ethan Hawke plays the role of The Grabber, a sadistic serial killer and child abductor, with an eerie mask, and James Ransone plays his brother, Max. The movie also stars Troy Rudeseal as Detective Miller and E. Roger Mitchell as Detective Wright, alongside a cast of talented young actors.

The story centred on young Finney, takes the time to introduce him and those around him, before diving into the core plot, which follows Finney, as he gets kidnapped, and is held captive in a basement, which is soundproof. Finney’s struggle to find a way to escape from the masked killer is what drives the movie, keeping viewers hopeful but in doubt of what is about to happen next, every step of the way.

Things take a strange turn, when the phone on the wall, which is disconnected, rings, and he hears the voices of previous children, who were victims of the same murderer, with each giving him advise on how he could try to escape or survive. The story follows Finney and the spirits around him, as they try to keep him hopeful, by helping him find the courage, he desperately needs.

Set in the 70s, the story stays faithful to its core source material, supported by the layout and costume designs that look natural, with the young cast, whose performance brings the film’s plot to life. With Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw truly making their mark, as potential future stars to lookout for.

Filmed in North Carolina, the 103-minute movie by Director Scott Derrickson, was made together with producers by Jason Blum and C. Robert Cargill, working in collaboration with production companies Crooked Highway and Blumhouse Productions. Made with a budget estimated to be between US$16-18 million, the film easily raked in over 121.2 million at the worldwide box-office, supported by mostly positive reviews, with many praising the young cast’s convincing performance. The film went on to receive moderate to high ratings, with an impressive 83% featured on Rotten Tomatoes, an almost average 65 per cent on Metacritic and 7.1/10 on IMDb.

Director Scott Derrickson’s portfolio of supernatural films, include The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Sinister (2012) and Deliver Us from Evil (2014), each of which give viewers an insight into his style of storytelling and the experience he clearly brought to this new serial killer themed movie.

The film which at times feels like a thriller, immersed in a dark atmosphere, focuses on clear character development, which adds to the story’s overall delivery, with suspense, which is sure to be appreciated with jump scares that are not over the top.

Rated R for ‘violence, bloody images, language and some drug use,’ this is a film that is sure to be enjoyed by fans of Derrickson’s films and those who appreciate a movie that focuses on attention to detail and good storytelling.

 By Nirupa Mohan Dore