New Horrors

Hey there!

Brad Weismann reviews horror films that have come out since the release of Lost in the Dark – through 2023 and beyond.

The Black Phone

Dir: Scott Derrickson

Scr: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill

Phot: Brett Jutkiewicz

Ed: Frederic Thoraval

Premiere: June 24, 2022

103 min.

There’s a lot going on in “The Black Phone.” It’s a serial-killer story. It’s a ghost story. It’s a psychic-child story. It’s even a coming-of-age story. All these stories chug alongside each other, straining credulity in an uneven film that stands out primarily for the work of Ethan Hawke in his first role as a villain.

The film is adapted from a short story by Joe Hill, the horror-writing son of Stephen King, and the original material bears a strong family resemblance – strong character development, a welcome sense of humor. Director and co-writer sets the tale in late-‘70s Denver, focusing on the work of a serial killer known as the Grabber. Like John Wayne Gacy, the Grabber abducts, tortures, and kills his victims, young boys.

13-year-old Finn (Mason Thames) is an ill-at-ease middle schooler, whose younger sister Gwen (Madeline McGraw) is feisty . . . and psychic. She can see details about the Grabber’s crimes that no one else can. It’s a skill she leans further into as the story progresses.

Eventually Finn is captured by the Grabber as well, and the rest of the film is concerned with Finn’s incarceration and his struggle to break free. He is trapped in a soundproofed basement, with minimal resources at his disposal. A disconnected black telephone begins ringing, as Finn starts to get calls from beyond, from the Grabber’s previous victims.

The highlight of the film is Ethan Hawke’s performance as the Grabber. His character constantly wears a mask, one with detachable sections (designed by horror SFX great Tom Savini). Acting masked is a particular challenge, one that Hawke overcomes with elegant use of his voice, posture, and movements. It’s easy to see why the role appealed to him.

“The Black Phone” manages to intrigue but not to terrify. The plot’s turns are pretty predictable; still, this is an enjoyable entertainment, especially for those who want to see Hawke take on a dark character.

A Quiet Place Part II

Dir: John Krasinski

Scr: John Krasinski

Phot: Polly Morgan

Ed: Michael P. Shawver

Premiere: May 28, 2021

97 min.

The perils of sequels are well known. The initial success of actor/director John Krasinski’s post-apocalyptic horror film “A Quiet Place” in 2018 meant that a follow-up was promptly slated. But there are many pitfalls to be avoided in continuing a film story. It can be just more of the same, a boring variation on the original premise.

Krasinki avoids mistakes in this worthy continuation. The surviving members of the Abbott family are still trapped in a world where blind aliens with extraordinary senses of hearing prey on hat is left of the human race. The resourceful mother (Emily Blunt) and her three children, one of them an infant, must travel to safety after the death of the family’s father (Krasinski, seen in flashback).

The monsters are the usual bugaboos, well-conceived and executed with typical CGI grace. But the nut of the story is not about them; it’s about restructuring human society after devastation. The movie captures the paranoia and hostility provoked by the precarious circumstances, and pushes its way through a set of scenarios that test our protagonists to the utmost.

The Black Phone

The Black Phone Dir: Scott Derrickson Scr: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill Phot: Brett Jutkiewicz Ed: Frederic Thoraval Premiere: June 24, 2022 103 min. There’s a lot going on in “The Black Phone.” It’s a serial-killer story. It’s a ghost story. It’s a psychic-child story. It’s even a coming-of-age story. All these stories chug alongside…

Keep reading

New posts in your inbox