Based on the award-winning short story by (legendary horror author) Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill from his New York Times bestseller 20th Century Ghosts, The Black Phone follows 13-year-old Finney (Thames), who is abducted by an infamous child abductor and serial killer known as The Grabber (Hawke) in a small town in northern Denver. Locked in the killer’s basement, Finney discovers that he can hear the killer’s previous victims through a disconnected black rotary phone on the wall.
Director Scott Derrickson shares on how the film came about, reminiscing on how he learned about the story. “I happened to stumble into a bookstore around the time the book came out. At the time, I didn’t know who Joe was, let alone that he was Stephen King’s son. I stood in the bookstore and read this short story and thought, ‘Wow, this guy is great.’ It was only about 20 pages long, but I thought the concept was fantastic and such a good idea for a movie. I never forgot about it.”
The inspiration for the tale came from a specific memory from Hill’s childhood. “I grew up in Bangor, Maine, in a very old house,” Hill says. “There was a phone in the basement that wasn’t connected to anything, and I found that phone creepy and unsettling. It didn’t make sense for a phone to be in a basement with a dirt floor and crumbling concrete walls. As a kid, the worst thing I could imagine was that phone ringing.”
The Black Phone also delves into the traumas and dangers of being a kid growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. Kids had a lot more freedom back then, which made them a lot more susceptible to danger, but also kept kids on their toes. For Hill, the recreation of that era in the film proved particularly vivid and personal. For Gen Xers, children of the ’70s, this was a time without anti-bullying initiatives, where, for boys in particular, learning to defend oneself against mean kids was considered a normal rite of passage. “My earliest memory up until high school was the violence of the neighborhood that I lived in,” Derrickson says. “The primary feeling that I remember having as a child was fear. I was the youngest kid on the street full of bullies.”
Released by Universal Pictures International, set your alarms and watch The Black Phone in local cinemas nationwide starting July 20. Rated R13 by the MTRCB (only 13 years old above can watch in cinemas).
Catch it earlier on July 11 and 12 with its sneak previews in select cinemas nationwide.