After bouncing out of the Multiverse Of Madness, director Scott Derrickson returns to his horror roots with The Black Phone. Written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, frequent collaborators who previously teamed up on Doctor Strange and Sinister, The Black Phone reunites both with their Sinister lead Ethan Hawke.
A squeaky-voiced Hawke plays a kidnapper and child killer that skirts authorities by using the clever disguise of a deranged carnival barker. Allegedly, we should say, because he has not been convicted as far as we can tell from the trailer. Driving around in his unmarked, black van that’s big enough to carry his never-ending supply of top hats, skeleton masks, and balloons, Hawke picks up 13-year-old Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) and sticks him in the worst escape room this side of Hollywood Boulevard.
The trailer basically lays out the plot. Finney Shaw is stuck in Hawke’s basement, with Hawke, in his big skeleton smile mask, serving him well-seasoned food. Inside the basement is the titular Black Phone, which allows Finney to communicate with Hawke’s victims, who instruct him on how to escape via a series of riddles, puzzles, and really anything they can to pad out the film’s second act.
Scott Derrickson answered The Black Phone after exiting his Strange sequel, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. It may have been a good trade considering The Black Phone looks sufficiently terrifying, with Hawke’s creepy visage and a seemingly endless array of masks.
The A.V. Club was very enthusiastic about Sinister, particularly Hawke, back when it came out. Then, two years ago, science confirmed our suspicions that Sinister was good by declaring it the “scariest movie of all time.” But, of course, this was determined by a focus group based on critics’ lists and Reddit recommendations, so, yeah, the science will only take you so far.
The Black Phone opens in theaters on June 24.