The Black Phone

Soulfully scary

It’s not that I’m down on horror movies; just the lazy ones that rely overmuch on violence and gore. I prefer those that make me squirm by creating real suspense. Like this one.

Shy young Finney (an excellent Mason Thames) realizes – all too late – that he has become the sixth in a series of child disappearances, kids snatched by a sadistic lunatic (Ethan Hawke). He’s locked in a soundproof basement with nothing but a mattress and a black rotary telephone (it’s the ‘70s). 

But Finney has two things going for him: his amusingly trash-talking little sister is something of a psychic who finds clues to his whereabouts in her dreams. And the obviously disconnected phone, it transpires, apparently functions as a conduit to his five presumably deceased predecessors, who offer clues on how he may escape. 

Nicely paced, genuinely scary (with plenty of effective jump scares) and well acted. The director is Scott Derrickson, who helmed 2016’s Doctor Strange (the good one). (103 min)