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More people should watch this twisted horror thriller on Prime Video

I love Ethan Hawke. No, I can’t tell you exactly why. Is it because I wish he was my imperfect father figure or my intellectually stimulating one night stand? The black phonea 2022 horror thriller now streaming on First video, relieves me of that choice by turning the Gen-X idol into an unambiguously obnoxious villain. And I’m inside.

To mix together stranger things with Hethrow in your favorite serial killer miniseries and add a touch of bittersweet to temper the nostalgia, and you have The Black Phone. If you still haven’t seen this gem of a mid-budget genre film — yes, You — you should.

Hawke plays fictional ’70s serial killer The Grabber, a “part-time magician” who never leaves the house without his trusty pack of black balloons and a spray can of chloroform. And he often Feedback home with a kidnapped preteen to lock up his murderous basement – ​​but not before donning one of his grotesque horned masks. (While the likes of Ted Bundy and even Richard Ramirez have inspired unexplainable vigorous fandom, I guarantee The Grabber’s mask will rob you of your Ethan Hawke crush, at least for the film’s 103-minute run.)

The film’s protagonist, thankfully not the serial killer at its center, is Finney Blake (Mason Thames), a young teenager who lives with his alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies) and his smart-mouthed little sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) in blue. necklace, stick perpetual season suburban Denver of the late 70s. Adults here are absent at best, abusive at worst. And the kids bleed their noses as much out of rage as to make their way through a delicate and anarchic hierarchy. It’s a world of bullying or bullying, marred with child-led anarchy. On top of all this, the town boys continue to miss and Gwen has started having psychic visions about them.

When Finney himself is abducted, he wakes up on a filthy mattress in The Grabber’s soundproof basement, with nothing but the inoperable titular landline for company. And despite the absence of a dial tone, the phone still starts ringing. Of course.

Don’t pick up the phone.

Universal images

The movie has some real awesome horror: Its source is a short story written by Joe Hill (you know, Stephen King’s son?), and its adaptation reunites Hawke with writers C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson for the first time. since 2012 Claim (you know, the scientifically proven scariest movie of all time?) If I had known about this lineage, I would certainly have been too scared to watch it. But it’s there The black phone shines: It’s not that scary.

I say that as a compliment, not a criticism. Rather than bask in explicit sadism for its own good, the film instead stokes the panic of long-ago alien danger that never quite subsided. I would call The Black Phone scary, gritty – full of suspense, of course. And yes, it is super dark. But his jump scares are manageable (dare I say, superficial?) and his violence, at least at the hands of The Grabber, is largely off-camera. Finney’s limits? More escape room than torture chamber.

The film is set in 1978, which is part of what has been called the “golden age of serial murder”, when, according to crime historians, the vast majority of serial killers (whom people know ) were active.

The current era, therefore, could be seen as the golden age of serial killer intellectual property: the serial killer cinematic universe is expanding rapidly, as streaming platforms cash in on the craze for true-crime podcasts with docuseries and “inspired by” scripted shows with built-in features. public. (After the Dahmer Success — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Storyfor example, Netflix announced two more seasons to delve into “other high-profile personalities who left their mark on society.”) But what I love about The Black Phone – the same thing I loved about true crime parody american vandal — It is what it is not based on a true story.

Ethan Hawke in a top hat and face paint

Ethan Hawke as The Grabber.

Universal images

Bravo for the original narration! Yay for standalone movies! Yay to indulge in our ID’s sick fantasies over a bucket of buttered popcorn without the hangover of exploiting innocent victims for “content”!

So who’s on the other end of the black phone line? Well, it turns out Finney has a touch of something supernatural from his sister, and it’s the deceased former victims of The Grabber calling. The film plays up the scary factor of those phone conversations, probably because the test audience wasn’t scared enough, but the ghosts are actually more hype-man than haunting: every formerly abducted boy has advice for Finney on how to escape The Grabber’s Claws.

What follows is a Mulan-style second act in which I guarantee you’ll be cheering on Finney like you’re cheering on a dark horse sports team with an unexpectedly wide W.

If you’re a serial killer addict, a King completist, a Stranger Things superfan – or just miss watching the kids conquer the Aggro Crag – do yourself a favor and gift The Black Phone a watch. Come for the thrills and chills, but stay for the incredibly immersive feedback vibes. Or: come for the shirtless Hawke and, when it starts to feel a little weird, stay for the surprisingly uplifting underdog story and the delightfully satisfying resolution.


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