The Black Phone review – Ethan Hawke shines in a supernatural chiller

After a brief but well-regarded segue into the Marvel universe with Doctor Strange, director Scott Derrickson returns to his horror-drama roots with The Black Phone, a solid, spooky period chiller. Like his breakthrough picture, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, it combines conventional horror themes – in this case a masked child murderer (fully and terrifyingly inhabited by Ethan Hawke) and a supernatural element – with a rewarding depth of dramatic detail. The backdrop, blue-collar Denver in the late 1970s, is evoked through a nicotine and spilled Coors palette and the kind of parenting that is hands off apart from the occasional beatings.

Finney (Mason Thames) and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) live in fear of two things: the Grabber, the mysterious man behind a string of child abductions, and their own father, who whips them when any hint of their mother’s psychic ability manifests in them. It’s this ability, however, that might just save Finney when he is snatched. A disconnected phone in the basement prison links him with previous victims, each with a crucial hint on how to escape.

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