Official Discussion - The Black Phone [SPOILERS]

  1. As we witness the cost of living and housing market go down the shitter, hearing that a part-time magician was able to own two houses in the 70s was the most horrifying part of this movie

  2. Who says he's a part time magician? He tells a kid he's a magician, but that could easily be a lie. It's also not clear how often he works

  3. Well he grew up in the main house (he said the phone hasn't worked since he was a kid), so he probably inherited that, and bought the empty house on his part-time magician salary. Much more attainable.

  4. When the cops discovered the burial place of the kids, I was convinced for a brief second that Finny was dead. Great editing for a last second jump out of me

  5. Reminded me of the Scream TV show where a victim is in a box with water entering it and the police have a live feed and they get there, but the person is already dead bc the feed was actually on a time delay.

  6. I wholeheartedly thought that when Finny came out from the other house and Gwen went to hug him that she was gonna run straight through him, because he was already dead and just seeing him. I was happily surprised because I REALLY didn't want him dead

  7. I haven’t seen anyone mention this here but the scene when the dad was beating Finn’s sister (played by Madeleine McGraw) with the belt was horrifying. Her crying, screams and pleading was so real :(

  8. That scene was honestly way scarier than everything with the Grabber. You knew what the deal was when the kids were tiptoeing around the dad, and then it just explodes into this horrific, brutal chaos -- and then this girl has to go back to saying "yes, Daddy" to this guy and act like everything's fine for the rest of the movie. It's so unsettlingly real.

  9. If there were awards for most realistic portrayal of beating your kids in a movie The Black Phone would win. No contest.

  10. If I was keeping someone captive in my basement, I probably wouldn't give them multiple glass bottles. I found it odd that those were never used as weapons/traps.

  11. It was part of the Grabber’s baits. He probably wanted Finney to use the bottles (trusting that Finney could not overpower him) to have a reason to label him as a “naughty boy” and murder him.

  12. When he asked what weapon to use over the phone and was told to use the phone and put loads of dirt in it, I thought "why not use the lid of the toilet he used to bash a hole through the wall?" That would have hurt like hell and it seemed he could lift it alright.

  13. Thought the movie was great. Anyone got any theories why the phone was breathing ? And why Ethan hawks character can hear the phone ?

  14. My theory of the phone breathing was that it was Finn's mind's way of processing that spirits were there and wanting to communicate in general, between times when they had something specific to say. I thought The Grabber was already psychic or magical, so he could also experience it but didn't want to. Either because he on some level knew that he'd be talking to the boys he'd killed, or because of something in his unknown backstory. He doesn't just rip the phone out, I think on some level it's part of his game that he hasn't articulated to himself and is afraid of.

  15. if you heard the kids often repeated sentences on the phone, my guess is that one time was for the kid and one time was a separate phone call for the grabber.

  16. The boy, the girl, the Grabber and the dead mom all have The Shine. I think Grabber sees Phinney as special as he feels that connection, even if isn't directly aware of it.

  17. The phone breathing was the only part of the entire movie that I didn't love. It wasn't bad, but it just seemed like it was weird for the sake of being weird.

  18. Maybe I’m misremembering but I could swear every time the breathing happened the Grabber was on his way to pay the kid a visit so I thought it was some sort of warning signal. Probably wrong though

  19. My theory on why Ethan Hawke can hear the phone is that in the movie, people with mental illness and trauma gain some heightened sensitivity to such things. The way the Grabber whipped the kids with a belt mirrored how their own Dad whipped them with a belt, and insinuated that the Grabber experienced horrible abuse as a child and that’s why he does what he does. Their Mom clearly suffered from mental health issues as well, and may have had similar ability.

  20. Madeleine McGraw as the sister stole the show. Ethan was terrifying and Mason was also great, but Gwen was such a fun character!

  21. During the cop scene when they interrogated her at school I expected her to be like most little girls in movies where they break down crying and start screaming "I don't know!" But I was so pleasantly surprised when she instead screamed "YOU DUMB FUCKING FART-KNOCKERS!" Truly an absolute gem of a line, and I can't get it out of my head. 🤣

  22. During a certain scene with a certain character, I couldn’t believe someone as young as her could emote and act so well. It was amazing and distressing. She was incredible.

  23. Gwen remind me of Liana Mormont from the game of the thrones series. Gwen is instant audience favorite and steal every scene she is in…just wow.

  24. Yeah the sister was great. I was convinced Finney would answer the phone at one point and the sister would be on the other end. Would’ve been a freaky twist.

  25. Do y'all remember when the Grabber came downstairs and said he just wanted to look at Finney? I thought that was so psychologically horrifying smh

  26. Max was like a cross between Jake Gyllenhaal and Jim Carrey, with a dash of Bruce Campbell in his youth.

  27. I had to look up the actor because I recognized him from a couple things. First was a hbo series called Generation Kill based on the 2nd invasion of Iraq. The other is a movie called Ken Park where he blows his load and winds up killing himself from auto erotic asphyxiation. And yes it’s all shown uncensored. Fucked up movie from my teenage years.

  28. The acting from the daughter when the father was beating her was just stupendous. Genuinely felt uneasy watching that, great movie. The ending felt a bit anticlimactic though.

  29. Agreed. I was hoping for some kind of a plot twist in the end, but nothing. A little underwhelming, but still a great movie. Gwen was awesome.

  30. Was the blood crack (for lack of a better term) a reference to sinister? Especially with the Ethan hawke connection.

  31. It was rust. My husband works with concrete for a living. Gave me a whole background on how that happened and how you prevent it and ways to fix it DURING the movie. Lol

  32. I really enjoyed this. I went in thinking horror, but was pleasantly surprised by the thriller aspect of it. My only gripe is I wish we saw more of The Grabber. Hawke did phenomenal when on screen, but I would have loved a bit more to really show how psychotic he was.

  33. This is likely because in the short story, all you see is through Finney’s eyes. So really, not much is known about The Grabber aside from he keeps taking children and killing them. Maybe one day Joe Hill will write a prequel story. I think that would be rather fascinating.

  34. I wondered about him abit. Unless I missed it, what was his motivation? They said that The Grabber could hear the voices, but he chose not to believe, I kinda wished we got more of that. When Finn wakes up to see Grabber staring at him...he's crying. I keep feeling like I'm supposed to take a character slice out of that, but I can't fully understand his character

  35. Agreed. Especially when Finn ripped his mask off and he freaked out, it didn't seem like just a "oh no, he can identify my face now" freak-out but rather a far more nuanced indicator of his psychosis almost in a religious/ritualistic way like he actually felt his skin had been ripped off or something.

  36. That kid was a fucking baller. Jesus Christ. It was awesome seeing how great his plan was, since we had only gotten hints of it prior.

  37. I kept waiting for him to hit Ethan Hawke with the phone just once, maybe twice, and then trying to run away only to end up being caught again. But nope, I loved it when he just kept hitting him and eventually snapping his neck.

  38. I saw Blumhouse and a very short TV spot for it and was like "let me guess, some kids go into an abandoned house and answer a haunted phone and start seeing ghosts and shit and going crazy."

  39. I pretty much figured going in the kid would escape and The Grabber would get what was coming to him because the ending would not be satisfying otherwise. I did NOT expect Finney to flat out SNAP THE KILLER'S NECK in cold blood like that, but it was still immensely satisfying.

  40. His buddy did a similar move the the bully’s neck in the beginning before he got on top of him and started wailing on him, though he didn’t snap the bully’s neck.

  41. I felt like the first act went on a bit long considering a lot of those characters weren't really touched on again. Good to see the fucked up homelife and school stuff but it could have been shorter there, or paid off more later

  42. To me, the most supernatural thing in the whole movie was how quickly the grabber got in and started driving his car after Finney as soon as he escaped.

  43. I understand it's a different time and I'm not here to say whether it's right or wrong, but Madeline McGraw's performance during the scene where she got whopped is some of the most authentic acting I've ever seen. Anybody who's been there knows how that's just how you talked when you got whooped (half scream/half cry/half angry) 😭😭

  44. I thought the same thing. She took that scene to a completely other level. I wasn’t particularly struck by her larger work in the movie, but I’m def gonna be paying attention to her career now after watching that scene lol. Gave me chills

  45. I feel like this movie could have been about 30 minutes longer and I wouldn’t mind. Delving more into the history of the 5 kids before Finn. I did love that he used each piece of knowledge the 5 kids before him gave him to defeat the grabber. That was a nice touch.

  46. Yeah, that was nice. Before that it felt like he was living out that their escape attempts would all be doomed to fail, even if they'd had time to complete them, which was damn grim.

  47. This really felt like it needed some more time to flesh out characters or develop the Grabber - it almost felt like there was no rising action because once the kid got kidnapped, we as an audience never had any indication of how close or far he was from being murdered.

  48. It was so satisfying watching all those dead end methods come together at the end! I was surprised that he didn’t just use the lid from the toilet tank instead of a phone packed with dirt but… it’s thematic i guess lol

  49. Saw it tonight and I loved it. Horror is my favorite genre and it’s rare for me to be blown away by a horror movie. I never read the story it’s based on but I’ll give my thoughts anyway.

  50. i’d like to believe that both kids had spiritual gifts fin’s just came in his ears rather than in sight/dreams like gwen’s. I’ve read a few other post and i’ve come to believe that the phone was only heard by people with spirtual abilities and that’s why the other kids couldn’t hear it but fin could be had genetic spiritual gifts

  51. Absolutely loved Madeleine McGraw's performance as Fin's sister. Her "Dear Jesus, what the fuck?" and calling the detectives "stupid fucking fart knockers" when they started to disregard what she was saying got the biggest laughs in my theater.

  52. Really enjoyed this. Feels very Stephen King in all the best ways (makes sense since his son wrote the short story); vague but powerful supernatural elements, facing personal traumas wrapped up in other other evils, etc. It strikes a really solidly creepy tone, and Hawke’s villain turn is really menacing. Loved the 70s aesthetic and soundtrack too. Very solid 7/10, it’s refreshingly old school and genuinely spooky.

  53. My favorite part is what you mentioned about the supernatural elements being very vague. There is nothing I hate more in horror than over-explanation and putting the evil right out in the open. They don’t feel the need to do that here. How does the phone work? Where are the dead kids and what kind of state are they in? They leave it a mystery to think about. That last question especially got to me. The way the one kid looked like he was forcibly torn back to some other dark existence was chilling.

  54. I loved the soundtrack too and was really happy to see it was Mark Korven. His work with Robert Eggers is some of my favorite ever and I was really sad to see he wasn't part of The Northman.

  55. since i haven’t seen it mentioned yet, i gotta address the (2nd?) dead boy whose corpse appeared in the corner of the room floating, cut up & bloody while he points toward the next clue for Finny’s escape. horrifying stuff, especially because it wasn’t just a quick cut—they let you stare at him for a while!

  56. Max is the grabber’s brother right? (Sorry bad with names) but yeah I worried he will be accidentally killed and be framed for his brother’s works and then the actual grabber escapes.

  57. So from what I understand, the dead kids were in a another plane of existence and they were finally able to communicate with Finney because he and his sister had some sort of mind gift (clearly from their mother as their father mentions she had dreams too). So Finney is the first taken child to hear the phone like the kids say in the movie, he communicates with them while the sister gets visions of their lives, eventually with them leading her to the bodies. Still wondering about the Grabber’s history and why he seems to have multiple personalities. Or why he was grabbing his face in pain when his mask was removed. Overall a well done film that had me invested. Not some masterpiece but it didn’t try to be, there was a strong entertainment factor.

  58. I don’t think the grabber hurt when he wasn’t wearing his mask. It was more of a psychological thing, that he needed to wear it when down in the basement (probably due to trauma he experienced down there)

  59. And the "No, you stupid fucking fart knocker" line. Loved seeing the detectives get a jolt when they started dismissing her.

  60. So all of the boys kinda got their kidnapping shown in the flashbacks, except for Vance (in his, it looks like he's arrested by the police, and for some reason, they drop him off at the Grabber's second house, without explaining at all why they dropped him off there or how he came into custody of the Grabber. Did I miss something?

  61. I think it was more like the flashback scene showing how Finney and Vance had met before, which then blended into one of the sister’s dreams. I don’t think they actually dropped him off there in reality, just her dreams giving a clue as to the location. Just like how Vance didn’t actually carve the killer’s address into that guy’s arm because that was before he even got kidnapped. It was confusing but on point for dream logic

  62. Vances story was the one that I would have loved to see a little more of. Especially since I couldn't see any obvious injuries on his ghost. I imagine he must've been one of the "naughtiest boys" so the grabber must have done something pretty bad to him back, right? Honestly when I saw the meat in the fridge I assumed the worst about where those dead bodies went...

  63. Just saw it a second time and noticed that in the beginning at the baseball game, his crush is holding a bottle of Crush soda lol

  64. I’m also here for the Pink Floyd scene. That actually elicited an emotional response from me. I’m only 28 but found that album in my teens and it’s one of my favorites. It fit that scene SO well

  65. I think that's right, but he's also a kid, and the grabber killed at least 2, maybe 3 if you count Bruce, stronger kids. The toilet lid would be too heavy for anything other than a sneak attack. Though, and maybe this would have got me killed, but when the Grabber was sleeping i would have gone for a chef's knife rather than trying to open the lock.

  66. I know it would of ruined the moment but I wish on the last phone call the last voice was the brother saying “Hey f*ck you man! “ 😂

  67. the final call had me in my FEELS. The fact that robin told him he had been with him the whole time really hit me. I could just imagine robin watching finney figure out each n every clue the boys gave. Him just watching with pride and sadness as he watches his friend grow right in front of his eyes but also cheering him on. I would have really appreciated if they had shown the boys more in the background while finney was doing as they told him too it would have added a different element to see glimpses of them throughout the movie watching finney rather than have their scene and then not be seen again

  68. I almost cried when Robin and Finn were practicing how to punch the grabber with the phone, then finally let a small tear drop when finn and her sister hugged

  69. I have one small point that I think you missed. The paperboy is the one who tells Finn about the trap which is why he's careful while going up stairs to check on the grabber. Finn also finds out later from one of the victims that the grabber uses the "naughty boy" game to give him a reason to beat and kill the kids and the grabber had not beaten him so far as he didn't try to escape

  70. Absolutely love your comment, especially the bits about how trauma impacts the kids, how Finn’s experiences make him respond the way he does when abducted, and how the Grabber is using these kids to deal with his own trauma (the bit about being envious!!)

  71. A lot of people are like, “why didn’t he use the toilet seat?” “Why didn’t he use the glass bottles?” The child broke the man’s neck. What else do you need?

  72. One of my favourite scenes was when Gwen reunited with Finn in the end. Not gonna lie but almost cried I don’t know why. She really involved me so much in her character. What a performance!!! The chemistry of them two was unreal

  73. I feel like this entire movie was a allegory for child abuse and the failure of support structures around children to identify and fix the issue. I was particularly struck by the line that went something like "you remian invisible until you make the paper and then everyone knows your name".

  74. I agree, bullying as well, which again is usually a byproduct of kids who come from abusive households. Before cell phones and social media, kids going through these things felt so much more alone and didn’t know others went through it unless they met kids who did, and they didn’t have the means to document things like with cell phones to upload to social media, or the internet to read about these things. The way the girl spoke to the police was a reaction to how out of touch support services were with those they were meant to protect. That part might not have changed much.

  75. For the last few years I've done my very best to avoid watching trailers for films. They give away everything and nothing is a surprise anymore.

  76. Love the the movie but did anyone absolutely hate the brother? Not the character but just that it was completely unnecessary and only complicates the plot imo. The brothers like obsessed with finding the kids yet doesn’t notice anything weird about his brother or the basement. The kid could technically scream anytime he left the room and the brother would most likely hear it. Did the grabber lock his brother in his room at night or something cause couldn’t he bump into his brother passed out in a chair with a mask and belt?

  77. The brother character is in the short story. He shows up very close to the end and you assume that’s how Finn is gonna get away. His fate in the movie is exactly as it is in the story. It caught my wife off guard and I told her it was coming, so I think it played great.

  78. I thought the Finn was going to kill the brother thinking he was the grabber. Then the grabber would pack up and start doing the same thing in another state.

  79. It felt like Derrickson and Hawke wanted to do a Sinister reunion so they got Ransone in on the act, which is why his character seemed somewhat extraneous. Also, it doesn't seem like Ransone is particularly busy, which is a shame.

  80. My group and I took him as a red herring. We wonder if he's in on it at first. Grabber said he doesn't kill. He could be lying or he could be a handler for the kids in regards to Max.

  81. I saw this tonight and thought it was great. Super satisfying ending, good performances, a few top-notch jump scares. Also wanted to shout out the scene with the dad belting the daughter. Feels weird to give that scene credit but it really put me on edge.

  82. As someone that got beat like that.. oof yeah that little girl had the acting down. Those little moments of rebellion that just make things worse were so spot on. And the way she was crying. It was uncomfortable to be transported into that so vividly.

  83. The belt scene between the father and daughter was the most distressing scene by a lot for me. I wouldn’t call it scary, but knowing that shit actually does happen, and how great the young actress was (I genuinely couldn’t believe someone so young could elicit such emotions), made it the most terrifying part to me.

  84. Solid movie, and an original idea as well which is always cool. Some of the acting wasn't great but kid actors almost always are lacking.

  85. It was decent. Movie reminded me of The Lovely Bones, in that I can tell it was probably an amazing book but ended up translating just OK to movie form.

  86. Especially since it was set up with the mom. She had visions, drove her insane so she killed herself. Clearly the gift was passed to the kids. Would rather had that explored more

  87. I loved how there’s a creeper in a creeper van stealing kids in a small town and yet every kid is still just wandering home from school alone…

  88. Bruh y’all should’ve seen my theater when the end fight happened 😂 like we were watching a marvel movie , everybody was cheering n clapping for the kid while he was beating him up 💀 movie was cool

  89. Can someone give me some Jeremy Davies roles where he plays someone unbelievably awesome? So far I'm now looking at him as an alcoholic child abuser who got half of his squad killed because he was a coward. And he fucked his mom. Dickie Bennett, the child abusing literal motherfucker. My mind is about to give him Paul Dano status, wherein I'll hope he gets his ass kicked in every movie I see him in.

  90. In the flashback to Vince, the pinball kid, he carves 7741 in the arm of the kid he beat up. Then he gets loaded into a cop car and taken to 7741. Any thoughts on perhaps him being the first victim, and that's where he lived? I could see the first victim being someone close to home, and the body disposed in the basement of their house when their parents moved away to flee from the trauma of their kid going missing. And then it becomes the disposal spot for others as the need to "grab" continues.

  91. Am I just soft or did middle schoolers really fight like the fucking Sopranos in the 70s? Surprised Gwen just walked away without police trouble after cracking that kid's skull open lmao.

  92. I love your first point lol. My friend leaned over to me when it got to the pinball scene and was like "these kids are bad as hell!!" LOL. Straight up committing felonies left and right, beating each other damn near to death. Kids fought when I was growing up but not like that!!

  93. Most of your points are the same takeaways I came away with on this movie too. Great child actors, some hilarious moments, brutal fights, a solid storyline where each kid got to help Finney out in their own way, Ethan Hawke looked like he had a blast in the role, and they didn't hold back on the more brutal parts of the film.

  94. They could’ve easily fixed this and added to the twist a little. The brother should’ve been living in the house with the dead bodies across the street from the Grabber. Then the cops kick the door in and find the brother and the dead kids and then he says something like my brother is across the street…

  95. Not only that but could the could have made a noise any moment he was outside the room and the brother would have likely heard. Would have been ok if the brother wasn’t legitimately obsessed with finding the boys. Really weird idea

  96. Also was there a bike lock on the main entrance of the house and Max never thought that was odd. How was the bike lock in place when Grabber wasn’t home?

  97. When I first saw this poster for this movie, and saw the name Ethan Hawke, I was in. Then, seeing the trailer, made me less interested because it seemed like a tone that I wouldn’t really like.

  98. Anyone know what the Grabbers motive was? He mentions "that phone hasn't worked since I was a kid" and then his childhood is never brought up. Maybe the book people know?

  99. The whole “naughty boy” thing one of the ghost kids brought up made me think that he just did it out of pleasure from the game of it

  100. I don’t recall anything about it in the book but honestly need to re-read cause it’s been a while. The Black Phone section of 20th Century Ghosts is pretty short. The brother is in it, though. I didn’t picture him how he looks in the film so it took me a sec but then I saw the screen door behind him and it looked similar to her dream. Then I got excited that I was in on something from the book 😂

  101. I thought he said in the beginning he spent a lot of time in the basement so I figured he was abused as a kid

  102. The book is about 2 pages on a computer, so a very very short story. The movie expands the book about the other kids and the home situation.

  103. What was the scene that had that song? It was definitely something I’d heard before. I thought it was while he was like preparing his trap and stuff.

  104. I read the short story a couple of months. It’s a verrrrry basic and straightforward story. It’s just the kidnap scene, half of the phone calls featured in the movie and half of the Finney in the basement scenes. No getting to the upstairs, no digging the holes in the floor or the wall, not even an explanation for Ethan Hawke’s weirdness or why he kidnaps boys like how this movie kinda tried to actually explain.

  105. While watching I considered the direction they were taking would reveal that the voices weren’t necessarily of dead kids, but rather the kids communicating through time while they were still alive. There would be realizations that they are in Finn’s past and therefore would not make it out alive, so they’d work together to purposefully set up what Finn needs to escape. The big twist might be that Finn then hears his sister’s voice, indicating that he too doesn’t survive, but sets up the last piece so his sister can defeat the grabber.

  106. The sister role was so poignant. Didn’t you all see how when she had the dreams, it was about the kidnapped boys????? Then Vance says to Finney, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. They were talking to Gwen so that she could find them and give their families closure. Gwen was absolutely necessary and didn’t take away anything for me. Just brought more to the table. It was excellent. All of it.

  107. Went there blind without even watching the trailer and I'm so glad I did. Instead of horror, I felt this movie was more of a thriller with horror and supernatural elements.

  108. I agree with most of the comments in this thread but it surprised me that nobody talked about the music! It was phenomenal!

  109. What does it mean his arm is “mint”…I get it that he is praising Finney for a strong pitcher’s arm, but what’s with describing it as “mint”.

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