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THE BLACK PHONE

I’m fully aware I’m standing on uncommon ground with my takeaway from this film; as such, I love a good crucifixion. And as always, the following is absolutely spoiler-free. I couldn’t spoil it even if I tried because there’s really nothing to “give away”.

From the director of one of my favorite moody masterpieces “Sinister”, which is such a deliciously well-crafted, superbly scored delight… Wait, were was I? Oh yeah. “The Black Phone”.

This is a film I wanted to love, “wanted” being the operative word. What started as a formative set-up (acting, set design, etc.) felt rushed and hollow EVEN in those elements, which is hard to get wrong, specifically on a Blumhouse budget. You can’t avoid the fact that the cast played their roles superbly, for what crumbs they were given. However, I think even Ethan Hawk himself felt he was mis-cast. A sub-scary mask and script-cavities can surely never save an actor of even his caliber.

This film could have benefitted greatly had it grabbed the balls of the missing kids/crime-drama genre, like “Prisoners” or “Mystic River”, but the void of the salient “why” from the villain’s trajectory left questions vexingly unanswered. Which, incidentally, based upon the character development of the film, it felt like an integral cog that was missing from the wheel.

This is also one of those films that could have greatly benefitted from pulling a Shyamalan… as a “twist” can occasionally save an anticlimactic vessel in a pretty dress, and I was waiting for it… and waiting… till I realized the filmmakers were intentionally stepping out of that hackneyed box. The box that occasionally STILL works and could have redeemed itself from the “meh”.