Is The Black Phone scary? A psychological thriller paired with timely jump scares

The Black Phone

The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson is a story for the ages. The film was released in the summer of 2021, telling the story of a child abductor known as the grabber looming around the suburbs of Denver in the 1970s. After successfully abducting 5 kids, the grabber kidnaps Finney, who gets help from the previous children he abducted through a black phone to survive. 

But how scary is the film?

Caution: Spoilers ahead

The removal of the grabber’s backstory makes the film very effective 

Scott Derrickson does not attempt whatsoever to build a backstory to the grabber, snatching away the human element villains portray in regular thriller movies. 

The grabber has been portrayed as a character that snatches children in the broad daylight and places them in a soundproof basement, telling them they can’t escape. After voluntarily leaving the doors unlocked, he kills the children after they try to escape calling them ‘naughty boys’ who cannot abide by his rules. 

No one knows the origin story of the grabber, or why he grabs children and kills them methodically for being naughty. Next on the undisclosed topics are his obsession with his mask and the clown attire. 

Continuously leaving these key elements in the dark makes the grabber a top-class villain to who the audience cannot relate. Add Ethan Hawke into the mix to be cast as the grabber and the film goes to a completely different level of scary. 

Scott Derrickson while in an interview with Screen Rant, spoke about the mask of the grabber along with Ethan Hawkes performance in the film;

“He (Ethan Hawke) lets the mask be scary, and he lets it be menacing; he lets it be sadistic. It’s all those things, and somehow, he’s able to bring all these interesting nuances from behind that mask in the iterations of his voice. With these performer-magician gestures that he does, he just somehow had an ability to create a very complex character without a backstory and without a lot of information.”

Ultimately, stripping off the humanity of the grabber, casting Ethan Hawke to play it, and giving it a good storyline makes the villain psychologically scary. 

The supernatural element is another cause of concern

The foundation of the film is based on supernatural elements on many levels. The black phone in the grabber’s basement proves to be a constant help for Finney’s survival. Finney receives a call from 5 dead boys trying to keep him out of trouble. Lastly, he gets a call from his dead best friend Robin Arellano who gives him the final instructions on how to prepare for a fight with the grabber. 

The film makes it quite clear; that Finney couldn’t have survived without the help of the supernatural. The connection of this element to the black phone is still a mystery, but it certainly elevates the scare meter of the film. 

The other supernatural element comes from Finney’s sister Gwen. She continues to see small visions of the grabber but doesn’t piece any of the information together. The film also reveals that she has received this gift from her mom who too has passed away, without giving any explanation to this backstory. 

This supernaturality of Gwen happens to be the plot twist where she manages to paint a clear picture and inform the police about the house she saw while dreaming. 

The film has depictions of violence, gore and man jump scares

Jump scares are well timed in the film, adding to the overall theatrical experience. They often happen when Finney starts talking with the killed boys through the black phone, heightening the scare effect and providing more elements to the plot. 

The film also portrays some gory violence; the highlight being the grabber killing his brother by striking his head with an axe. More depictions of children covered with blood and swollen skin are shown. 

The film ends with Finney strangling the grabber through the telephone cord of the black phone, amounting to a very violent ending. He ultimately manages to snap his neck. 

The film is classified as Rated R for violence, bloody images, language, and some drug use. 

The Black Phone isn’t scary when compared to the likes of the horror genre, but the psychology behind the grabber and the supernatural elements coupled with the blood and gore would make for a spine-tingling experience.