Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash
*Content Warning: This article will contain spoilers for the film The Black Phone which may mention violence, kidnapping, and death*
It’s September, which means, to many, that it’s Halloween season. What better way to get into the Halloween season than to start watching horror and thriller films? The Black Phone is a unique scaryr film that reverses typical horror movie conventions by having the paranormal trying to save the protagonist, 13-year-old, Finney. One of the most terrifying things depicted in this film is what a man is capable of.
The plot of this film is very original and different from most thriller films. Although the overall plot of this film is extremely creative, too many elements of a typical horrorstory were missing.
There are usually two main categories when it comes to horror films. The first is usually for horror films rated R. It’s usually a very simple “who is the killer?” type plot (example Scream). The film’s main goal is to scare the audience with a lot of gore.
The second category is thrillers. These films typically don’t have many gory scenes and can sometimes get away with a PG rating. What draws the audience in is the plot and mystery elements, the “what is haunting this house and why?” as seen in a series like Paranormal Activity. The Black Phone falls directly into this category. The film has a PG age rating. There is hardly any gore and it could be described as an R. L. Stine Goosebumps special for young adults.
The Black Phone was marketed as a horror film about young boys who get abducted by a serial killer who wears a devil’s mask. When the protagonist Finney gets abducted by the masked killer he is locked away in the basement. This is when the spirits of the boys were kidnapped before Finney. They call him on the titular black phone that is in the basement in an attempt to save him. This is what made the film stand out compared to other thrillers. The spirits that were victims of an atrocious death come back to stop the traditional cycle.
Where the film’s plot lacks is in the ending. Throughout the film, the masked killer tries to make Finney play “naughty boy.” This is a twisted game where the killer would tease Finney with allowing him to escape the basement but when Finney tried to leave he’d get beaten. At the end of the film, it is never revealed why the killer had all his victims play this game.
Throughout the film, the spirits give Finney advice which is revealed to be an escape plan. The plan was not very thought out and appeared on screen as lazy writing. Finney was able to trip the masked man into a knee-deep hole and kill him because he took off his devil’s mask which made the man go insane. It’s never revealed to the audience why the man needed his mask. This was a huge part of the story that was never explained. The ending battle was over in what felt like less than a minute.
Overall, the film had a very good plot idea, but it was executed very poorly. By the end of the film, there are more questions than answers which isn’t a great ending for a thriller film looking to make up for a lack of gore with mystery elements.