When you direct a Marvel movie that makes almost $700 million, that tends to be what most people know you for. And such is the case with director Scott Derrickson whose 2016 film, Doctor Strange, is still as pertinent a part of the MCU today as it was then. Before Strange, though, Derrickson was known for horror movies: The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Deliver Us From Evil and, most famously, Sinister.
Well, though he was poised to direct Doctor Strange 2, Derrickson famously stepped away from that project and went back to his roots. His new film is called The Black Phone and, up until now, no one had seen anything from it. But Universal Pictures and Blumhouse debuted a trailer at CinemaCon 2021 and the film looks like it’s going to be absolutely terrifying.
The Black Phone is based on a 2004 short story by Joe Hill, a.k.a. Stephen King’s son, so there’s a chance some of you know the story,and what to expect. I did not know either though so, as the footage unfurled, I was entranced. The Black Phone is about a young boy who lives in a town where lots of kids have been kidnapped. And so the trailer begins with the boy and a young girl looking at all the sad “Missing” posters around town. They then run into a man who drives a van that says “Abracadabra” on it. This man is played by Ethan Hawke, who worked with Derrickson on Sinister and told audiences at Cinemacon before the trailer ran that, though he has a rule to never play villains, he made an exception for this movie.
As the trailer continues, Hawke’s character gets out of his truck (appearing to have some kind of white makeup on), and drops his groceries. The young boy attempts to help him as the man explains he’s a part time magician. A few of his black balloons fly to the sky. The man then says to the boy “Do you want to see a magic trick?” It’s all very Joker. And welp, wouldn’t you know it, that part time magician is the person who has been kidnapping all those kids! We see the boy wake up in some desolate room, with nothing but a bed and a black phone. The magician is standing in the door in a creepy kabuki mask. “The phone doesn’t work,” he tells the boy. Next we see the girl from the beginning explaining that she had a dream about this magician. She mentions the black balloons, which the police admit is not a detail she could have known, suggesting that there’s something more mythical going on here.
Back back in captivity, the phone in the boy’s room rings—despite the fact that it’s disconnected, and that the magician said it wouldn’t work. The boy picks up. It’s one of the magician’s victims, calling from beyond the grave, with a clue to how to escape. The boy keeps getting calls from other dead victims, each providing him clues as to how to escape. As this is happening, his young friend is still having dreams about the magician, and the ghosts of the dead kids start showing up there too. All of which leads to the trailer culminating in an escape attempt gone wrong—with lots of screaming, and even more questions.
It’s a fascinating, terrifying premise for a film. One that, from Derrickson and writing partner Robert Cargill, based on Hill’s work, could be something special. We’ll find out more when The Black Phone opens in theaters January 28, 2022.
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