‘The Black Phone’

Leah Pflaum

More stories from Leah Pflaum


Ethan Hawke as ‘the grabber’ from ‘The Black Phone’

Spoiler warning for the 2022 horror film, “The Black Phone.”

Set in Northern Denver in 1978, “The Black Phone” portrays the 13-year-old protagonist, Finney Blake, as he attempts to escape his hostage hold from an anonymous older, masked gentleman, who is locally known as the ‘the grabber’. 

Finney, played by Mason Thames, lives with his younger sister, Gwen, whom he is very protective of, and their abusive and neglectful, alcoholic father. 

In the beginning, we see a character by the name of Bruce Yamada riding his bike home from school, taking in all that is going on in his community, such as kids playing outside. 

On his ride, he sees a black van pull up out of nowhere with a mysterious figure who looks like an older man, and then the screen goes black, making the audience assume he was abducted.

As news strikes of Bruce’s disappearance, the community has assumptions that he was taken by a person the papers call ‘the grabber’, who has recently been abducting young boys.

From the disappearance, the police questioned Gwen, as she had been telling Bruce’s sister specific details of the moment he disappeared — details that were not shared with the public. She claims they come to her through recurring dreams.

Not long after Bruce, another kid named Robin Arellano, who was friends with Finney, went missing on his way home from school. This was hard for Finney as Robin was always there to stand up to bullies for him.

One day on his walk home from school, Finney and Gwen went separate ways as Gwen was on her way to a friend’s house. Alone on a quiet street, Finney sees a black van pull up out of nowhere, with a masked man who drops his groceries all over the sidewalk. 

Finney offers to help him clean up and as a reward, the man offers to show him a magic trick. Instead, he sprays him with chemicals to knock him out, shoves black balloons in his face to hide the abduction, then proceeds to push him in the van.

Finney wakes up on a dirty, torn mattress in a fully concrete basement. This is when Finney realizes what has happened and that he was taken by ‘the grabber’, who is played by famous actor and film director, Ethan Hawke.

Finney notices that the basement is empty except for the mattress, one window, a toilet, folded rugs and one black phone attached to the wall where the line was cut, making it useless. 

However, Finney begins to hear it ring, and when he answers he can hear the voices of ‘the grabbers’ previous victims, including Bruce and Robin. There are five boys in total, and when Finney answers we can see the spirits of the boys in the room.

The boys give Finney advice on how to escape, based on the tactics and items they left behind with their failed attempts such as a cable hidden in between the floor and wall, the beginning of a hole under the tiles and a carving of a bicycle lock combination, which is being used to lock the front door.

One of the most fascinating scenes of the movie is when Robin communicates to Finney through the phone, telling him he needs to fill it with dirt and attack ‘the grabber’.

In the scene, we see a synchronized motion between the two boys as Robin goes into detail about how to attack. It shows the connection the two boys had and how Robin is helping Finney as he needs to fight his own battle for once.

This is happening all while Gwen has put together all the details she sees in her dreams to lead her and the police to the house they expected Finney to be located.

In the end, Finney uses all the scraps of his failed attempts at escaping, by making ‘the grabber’ trip on the cable, fall in the hole and continuously beating him with the dirt-filled phone, which kills him, and gives Finney the chance to escape unharmed.

Overall, I think ‘The Black Phone’ was a very suspenseful movie with many plot twists and a heartfelt message of the boys trying to help a peer in a very traumatic time. It is a wonderful horror movie to add to your Halloween watch list. 

You can stream ‘The Black Phone’ for free with a Peacock subscription, rent on Amazon Prime Video and check out the trailer

Pflaum can be reached at [email protected].