The Black Phone

We all have that one childhood memory that haunts us to this very day. For me it was the sudden rattling of trash cans, tools, and boxes as everything came crashing down in my parents’ carport when I came home late one night as a young teenager.

Of course, the culprit was an ornery raccoon and not the murderous serial killer I had envisioned. Regardless, while I managed to keep my underwear clean, it still goes down as the exact moment my voice changed and I became a man. It was that scary.

"Spooky, creepy, and expertly paced, The Black Phone plays out with a delicious ‘70s vibe"


Short story author Joe Hill’s haunting childhood memory comes from an old rotary dial telephone on the wall of his parents’ dirt floor basement that wasn’t connected to anything. He recalls that as a child, the worst thing he could imagine was that phone ringing.

While my haunting childhood memory didn’t lead to much at all - other than developing my preference for front door entries, Hill’s adult-making moment led to The Black Phone, the latest film from Blumhouse’s dungeon of terror. It helps that Hill is the son of horror author Stephen King, but an even bigger turn of fortune was that the story gained the attention of filmmakers Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill who turned it into The Black Phone, a chilling tale about the strength and resilience of children and the power of family.

The Black Phone is set in the late ‘70s and follows 13-year-old Finney (newcomer Mason Thames) and his younger sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw, Ant-Man and the Wasp) who live with their abusive, alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies). Local boys are turning up missing, believed kidnapped by a local wannabe party clown and suspected serial killer known as The Grabber (Ethan Hawke, wearing an assortment of creepy masks), who was clearly inspired by John Wayne Gacy.The Black Phone

It’s not long before Finney himself is ensnared and taken to The Grabbers dark basement where a disconnected black phone on the wall rings and the voices of The Grabbers’ previous victims offer Finney clues that might help him get out of the mess he’s in. Meanwhile, Gwen is having dreams and visions that may provide clues as to her brother’s whereabouts.

Spooky, creepy, and expertly paced, The Black Phone plays out with a delicious ‘70s vibe as period commercials play on TVs while a smorgasbord of classic hits from such notorious acts as Pink Floyd, Sweet, and Edgar Winter Group plays under the gritty action. It’s all to purposefully set an authentic mood from a period that wasn’t always tinged with golden sunlight. Anyone who experienced the ‘70s knows it wasn’t that.

Derrickson finds his biggest success from the simplicity in which his story plays out. There’s nothing complicated or heavy-handed about any of it. As clues are doled out to Finney over the phone, we find ourselves playing detective, concocting schemes as we lean into the mystery which becomes an intelligent game of strategy and tactics rather than one of stupid horror coincidences and poor choices. Finney is in an escape room, of sorts, and we have a blast concocting ways to help him get out.

Though Gwen and Finney’s supernatural visions initially come off as a bit cheap or even gimmicky at times, we eventually buy in as they provide a rich back story to the concept of family, which becomes the film’s central theme. There’s a lot of personality in this coming-of-age story that gets interrupted by a horror film. The Black Phone is ringing. Dare you pick it up?

4/5 stars


The Black Phone

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Universal
Available on Blu-ray
- August 16, 2022
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; French (Canada): DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS-HD HR 7.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Universal Studios dials up a very nice 2-disc blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code Collector's Edition of The Black Phone that comes chock-full of interesting bonus features. The blue eco-case houses two discs and a digital code coupon. All are contained within a cardboard slip case.


The Black Phone features an impressive 1080p 2.39:1 transfer that is always sharp and crisp while holding the cool 70s visual vibe intact. In fact, much of the film's footage was shot on Super 8 and the intended look and feel of those sequences are rendered beautifully in this transfer. Regarding blacks: This is a dark film. Very dark. And Universal does a bang up job in keeping the shadows dark and inky. Very important as much of the film's creepy effectiveness happens from the dark shadowy corners at the edges of the frame.


An English language 7.1 DTS-HD MA track, a spanish language 7.1 DTS-HD MA track, and a French language 5.1 DTS-HD MA track are available selections with subtitles available in those languages.

The 7.1 DTS-HD MA is a thing of beauty as the room comes alive with creaks, bumps, and knocks that emanate from all corners of the room. Dialogue is always clear and audible.



  • From Producer/Co-Writer/Director Scott Derrickson

Special Features:

On the supplemental material front, Universal follows through with its Collector's Edition claim with a handful of very nice bonus features AND a short film from Derrickson. All in all this Collector's Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code of The Black Phone is a strong recommend. Add this one to your collection.

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Ethan Hawke’s Evil Turn (4:25)
  • Answering The Call: Behind The Scenes Of The Black Phone (10:40)
  • Devil In The Design (5:15)
  • Super 8 Set (1:48)
  • Shadowprowler: A Short Film By Scott Derrickson (11:57)

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars

Film Details

The Black Phone

MPAA Rating: R for violence, bloody images, language and some drug use.
103 mins
: Scott Derrickson
Scott Derrickson; C. Robert Cargill
Mason Thames; Madeleine McGraw; Ethan Hawke
: Horror | Thirller
Never Talk to Strangers.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Now See What You Made Me Do! You Made Me Kill My Own Brother."
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 24, 2022
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 16, 2022
Synopsis: After being abducted by a child killer and locked in a soundproof basement, a 13-year-old boy starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer's previous victims.


The Black Phone