A great evening at the theater

By Andrew McManus - Contributing Columnist

Happy Saturday everyone! We actually have a horror film this week. Some of you may have been expecting Elvis. I know he was/is my Mamaw Jane’s favorite singer and I plan to review that next week!

The Black Phone is a horror film that has an original premise, and I went back and looked through our reviews. WE haven’t reviewed a horror film since July of 2021! This surprised me and I feel we’ve had countless sequels and superhero themed movies and a change of pace never hurts.

A little back story on The Black Phone…This is backed on a short story from 2004 by Joe Hill. That name may not seem recognizable, but he is actually the son of the renowned horror writer Stephen King. Since we have a horror film that’s encouraging! Also, the lead in this film is Ethan Hawke. He’s having a bit of a reconnaissance in recent years, and you’ll remember him from one of his best roles in Training Day. That being said, he’s playing against typecast. Usually the hero, this time Hawke is the villain and a creepy one!

Onto the film.

We open in Denver, Colorado in 1978. The camera pans onto a little league baseball game and it feels like you are drawn into small-town America. The town feels safe judging from the crowd at the baseball game. We then see one of our leads named Finny (Thames) and he’s the pitcher for today’s game. His sister Gwen (McGraw) is cheering him on. You can tell they have a close bond from her yelling in the stands in support and maybe a little bit of chastising him. Sibling love.

We also see that Finny keeps looking over at a girl he clearly has a crush on. Pay attention Finny. Focus on the batter. Finny (Thames) throws pitch one…. strike…. he glances over again. She smiles. Pitch two……strike. Gwen (Thames) yells in support. One more pitch Finny. Over the plate and…. HOMERUN. Finny (Thames) is defeated. The other team wins and his crush leaves without speaking to him.

We then learn more about the brother and sister and their home life. Their father is Terrace (Davies) is an abusive, alcoholic. Their mother has died from a suicide, and we see after that Finny is also bullied at school. Slowly kids start to disappear and there is mention of “The Grabber” (Hawke) in the newspaper. The mood changes from a quiet, safe, small town to more of a menacing feel. The tension starts to engulf every seen little by little. We know eventually Finny (Thames) will get taken. But when?

Without giving more of the plot I was pleasantly surprised with this film. Ethan Hawke, as I stated earlier, is incredibly creepy. The masks his character wears are memorable, and I thought about them when I was driving home. Very strange.

This star of this film however is Finny Shaw played by Mason Thames. This film could have easily become an instant watch and forget, or you could sit there and not care about the characters, but from the beginning watching the boy lose off a homerun you care for him. We’ve watched films in the past with child actors, some great and some that ruined the film. Thankfully, this was the former.

I also appreciated the runtime. We’ve seen some long movies lately. I am back in college and the little time I get feels like I’m always at the theater. This works here. This is fast passed, yet a slow burn before any kidnappings. The director weaves from safe neighborhood to uncomfortable tension and I wasn’t expecting that.

If you’re a fan of the horror genre this is a good one. You’ll remember the story (in most cases with horror films you don’t) and I may watch this one again to see if I missed any clues. Shocked and surprised. There aren’t a ton of jump scares if that’s your thing, but the tension is uncomfortable which makes for a great evening at the theater. If you have a date night. Go! 4 stars out of 4


By Andrew McManus

Contributing Columnist