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SYFY WIRE The Black Phone

First reactions for 'The Black Phone' with Ethan Hawke promise horror film will make you 'squirm'

The Black Phone arrives on the big screen Friday, June 24.

By Josh Weiss
The Black Phone (2022)

While the rest of us still have to wait another two months for The Black Phone, a number of lucky audience members were able to connect their calls a little early with an advance screening at CinemaCon in Las Vegas this week. Directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Doctor Strange), the film adapts the short story of the same name written by Joe Hill. In fact, it sounds like this is the best adaptation of Hill's literary works so far — at least according to a tweet from The Kingcast (a Stephen King podcast run by Fangoria).

Set in the 1970s, the story picks up [the phone] in an all-American neighborhood, which has been rocked by a string of tragic child abductions perpetrated by a sadistic killer known simply as The Grabber (Moon Knight's Ethan Hawke). His latest target, 13-year-old Finney Blake (Mason Thames), is doomed to join the growing pile of bodies until he starts receiving supernatural help from the murderer's previous victims. They make contact with the boy via a disconnected black phone in the basement where The Grabber keeps his prey.

Scott Menzel of We Live Entertainment praised Hawke's Grabber performance as "terrifying," while adding that Thames and Madeleine McGraw (who plays Finney's sister, Gwen) "are newcomers worth keeping an eye on."

Entertainment Weekly's Lauren Huff echoed the sentiment, tweeting that the movie is "bolstered by excellent performances all around, but especially [by] the young actors." She also praised Derrickson's nice balance of horror and comedy: "A room full of grown-ass adults jumped and yelped and cheered (and laughed — it has good laughs!)."

Erik Davis, Managing Editor at Fandango, characterized the film as "a tension-filled ‘70s-set kidnapping thriller featuring a super creepy Ethan Hawke performance" before adding: "Prepare to squirm in your seat & jump a few times. Also a good story about finding your confidence as a kid. But as a parent, I was an absolute mess!"

Scott Mendelson of Forbes Entertainment spoke of a "handsomely staged and exquisitely acted horror thriller" that doesn't feel the need to "over-explain itself or outsmart itself."

"Absolutely loved The Black Phone!" exclaimed John Rocha of The Outlaw Nation podcast. "It scared me, moved me, and delivered on the story hype with a couple of fun surprises. Ethan Hawke is terrifyingly GOOD, with Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw stealing the movie. Scott Derrickson has directed an excellent film, my friends!"

Variety critic Courtney Howard — who got to see the film last fall at Beyond Fest — called it "a great suspenseful horror film" anchored by Thames and McGraw, who "steal the show. They are terrific and deliver the goods." Howard was the only one of the bunch to give a shoutout to the "solid soundtrack," which is sure to be packed with period-specific hits.

The Black Phone hits the big screen Friday, June 24.