Who called the black phone? The Black Phone (2021): Plot Summary, Hidden Meaning, Explanation Of The Ending, Similar Movies.
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Drama
Year of production: 2021
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Miguel Casares Mora, Ethan Hawke
tagline: “Never talk to strangers”
The plot of the film “The Black Phone”, which is an adaptation of the story of Joe Hill (the son of Stephen King and in many ways the successor of his work), is quite simple. It seems that there are no complex mysteries for the viewer and some hidden meaning. Let’s see if this is the case.
What is the movie about?
The plot of the film takes place in the seventies in the United States. It begins with a baseball game in which the main character, thirteen-year-old teenager Finny, participates. His team is losing, but one of the rivals named Bruce praises the boy for his game.
Mason Thames as Finny, Madeleine McGraw as Gwen. Frame from the film.
Inspired, Bruce rides a bicycle, a black van drives out towards him. The screen goes dark. Under the disturbing music of the screen saver, we are shown frames with the effect of a worn film: a bit of the atmosphere of the seventies and traces of the maniac’s activity (the remains of clothes, blood, posters depicting missing children).
The content of the first scene after the cutscene is dedicated to the protagonist’s family: his mother died long ago, the children are afraid of their strict father and try to be quiet.
Finny and sister Gwen go to school. Already from their conversation you can understand that they are very friendly. Finny notices one of Bruce’s missing posters and asks his sister if she thinks the kidnapped children will be found. Gwen replies that they will, but not in the best possible way. Children hear the noise of the crowd – there is a fight nearby. A boy named Robin defeated one of the local bullies named Elk, breaking his face in the blood. Gwen gloats: so the loser and it is necessary. But Finney objects to her: no one needs “so”. He is against any violence. We are also talking about a maniac, whom the children call “Grabber” (“Catcher”). Gwen slightly taunts her brother for being afraid of him, but immediately apologizes for it.
At recess, Finny tries to escape from a group of teenagers who are terrorizing him in the closet, but fails. Robin is protecting him. He tells his rescued that one day he will have to stand up for himself. Finny wonders if there was another way to resolve the conflict with Moose other than a bloody fight. But Robin replies that it was necessary to act tough so that the crowd saw the power. The guys find common interests and agree on the next meeting.
Gwen is called to the director’s office, where detectives interrogate her about Bruce’s disappearance. The girl is defiant, but tells her dream, in which the driver of a black van with black balloons kidnaps the boy. It seems that the dream came true, because it was these balls that the detectives found at the crime scene.
In the morning, Finny wakes up to the screams of his sister, who was severely beaten with a belt by her father. The boy wants to stand up for her, but does not dare. The father is angry because the police came to him about his daughter’s dreams. He furiously reminds Gwen of her mother, who saw something that doesn’t exist.
Ethan Hawke played the role of Grabber. Frame from the film.
Robin is walking down the road and sees a man getting out of a black van. The screen goes dark again and we learn that Robin has also been kidnapped. Finn asks his sister to induce a dream that could help save a friend, but Gwen replies that her ability does not work that way. However, she prays to Jesus about it. Detectives again come to the girl about her dreams.
The hero is again attacked by hooligans and his sister, armed with a stone, stands up for him. At school, a girl named Donna, who likes Finny, sits down at his desk. It seems to be mutual.
On the way home, Finny is attacked and kidnapped by a maniac with black balloons, posing as a magician. The boy regains consciousness already in the basement, where Grabber dragged him. On the last one is a terrible mask with horns. He says that nothing bad will happen to the boy and leaves, distracted by a phone call upstairs. Finny looks around. All he finds is a toilet bowl, some carpets, a mattress, and a black phone hanging on the wall.
Gwen finds out about her brother’s kidnapping and prays again.
Finny in the basement hears the black phone ringing and picks up. But Grabber, who went downstairs, says that there is no point in using it – the device has not been working for a long time. The maniac is now wearing a different mask: also with horns, but also with a toothy smile. The villain promises to let the boy go. Obviously, he is lying and intended to kill Finny as soon as possible, but someone upstairs interfered with his plans. Grabber tells the boy that he once heard a black phone ringing, but no one answered. He thought it was a joke of static electricity, because the device is actually non-working.
Grabber leaves and Finny hears the call again, picks up the phone – no answer. The boy falls asleep. Waking up, he sees a maniac. He is in a different mask – with an open upper part of the face. Finn talks to him and is finally convinced that someone upstairs is interfering with the implementation of Grabber’s plans.
Terrence is played by Jeremy Davis. Frame from the film.
The black phone rings, Finny picks up the phone, but he hears his name spoken in a terrible whisper, gets scared and leaves it. Deciding to answer the call again, he hears Bruce’s voice. He does not remember his name and says that this is the first thing you lose. To the question “Where?” replies, “You know where,” apparently referring to space-time after death. According to him, the phone called other victims of the maniac, but only Finney heard it. Grabber himself hears it, but does not believe in the reality of the call. Bruce suggests that there is a tunnel he started in the room and ends the conversation.
We again see shots with the effect of a worn film: Bruce’s life, which ended after the kidnapping, flashes before us.
Gwen has a dream in which Finny tries to escape but can’t. She takes a bike and rides around the area, trying to find a place from a dream, but without success. Meanwhile, Finny is digging a tunnel. Grabber comes again wearing a horned mask with a smile and brings food. The maniac leaves without locking the door and Finny opens it, but the black phone rings. The voice on the phone now belongs to Grabber’s other victim, Billy, the paperboy. He says that the unlocked door is a trap. In fact, the maniac is waiting upstairs with a belt and will beat the “guilty” to death. At first, Finny takes a few steps up the stairs, but nevertheless he comes to his senses and returns.
Billy gives the hero another tip: he hid the cable in the wall. With the help of it and the carpet, Finny rips off the window bars, but does not have time to open the window.
Meanwhile, Gwen dreams of footage from Billy’s life (with the same faded film effect) and the maniac himself. She comes to her father, asks him not to be angry and carefully hints at the veracity of her visions in dreams. He tells that Gwen’s mother saw things that did not exist in reality, and eventually committed suicide. And yet he agrees to drive around the city with his daughter in a car to look for a house similar to the one in her dreams.
Gwen probably found this house – we see how the detectives knock on his door, but find there a seemingly harmless man named Max, who is also trying to investigate the crimes of a maniac. This is the owner’s brother. Law enforcement officers do not notice the track of cocaine on the table – after they leave, Max reproaches himself for the inattention that could cost him his freedom.
Grabber goes down to Finny and again says that he is thinking about letting the boy go. He asks what his name is. But Finney says another name. The maniac is angry, knowing that this is a lie.
Troy Rudseal played the role of Detective Miller and Roger Mitchell played the role of Detective Wright. Frame from the film.
Finny sees a dead boy hanging in the air – another victim of Grabber. He points to a black phone. Another call and conversation. Finny does not remember the caller boy – he has been an inconspicuous quiet man all his life. From his words it is clear that the hero has very little time, but now you can try to escape. After all, the maniac, waiting with a belt for a victim who dared to open the unlocked door and get up, fell asleep. The boy tells Finny where the code for his bike lock is written, which hangs on the door upstairs.
The hero escapes, but the dog in the next room barks, so Grabber wakes up and catches up with him. The maniac returns Finny back, but he cannot kill him, because his brother, the same Max, woke up from the noise.
Gwen is probably having another dream and is complaining to Jesus that he is no longer helping her. She doubts if he even exists.
A teenager named Vance calls on the black phone. Finny is surprised: he was always afraid of this bully, but this is also a victim of Grabber. We see his life together with Gwen on frames with the effect of a worn film. Vance suggests that the wall behind the toilet can be destroyed and get into the refrigerator. The victim, in response to the bewilderment of the hero, who does not understand what is the point of helping the guy, gives an explanation: this is not Finney’s help – this is revenge on Grabber. The attempt still fails – the refrigerator is locked.
Last black phone call from Robin. He says that today is the day when you have to stand up for yourself. The hero objects: he does not consider himself a fighter. Robin of a different opinion: Finney has always been a fighter – he was afraid to hit himself, but courageously took the blows and each time he got to his feet. The dead friend advises filling the pipe with earth and hitting Grabber with it.
Brady Hepner played the role of Vance. Frame from the film.
Gwen again finds a house that looks like a dream maniac’s house. Dead children, who dreamed of a girl on the way, and the number exactly the same as in a dream, speak of the right direction of the search by their appearance. The girl calls the detective.
Max, after another dose of drugs after looking at the map, guesses that the “epicenter” of crimes is the house in which he is, that is, the house of his brother. The man goes downstairs and finds Finny in the basement, but Grabber immediately kills him. The maniac, promising the boy a painful death, calls and ties the dog.
Grabber tries to strike. But Finny dodges. Trying to grab him, the maniac stumbles over a previously stretched cable and falls into a dug hole covered with a carpet. Finny hits the villain several times with a pipe, and then strangles him with a cable. Before the maniac’s last breath, the boy puts the phone to Grabber’s ear – there are the victorious words of the hero’s dead helpers who have achieved retribution. Finny distracts the dog with a piece of meat from the fridge and exits.
The detectives arrive at the house that Gwen showed and discover the corpses of the murdered children in the basement. It turns out that this is a house – directly across from where Finney was. Brother and sister meet on the street. The father comes, cries and on his knees asks the children for forgiveness.
In the end, Finny returns to school. He seems to look a little unsure and confused. But, looking at the school bullies, his former offenders, he smiles. Finny sits at the same desk with Donna and, in response to the greeting, asks to be called Finn.
The meaning of the film The Black Phone
So, a detailed description gives an extremely clear picture: other victims help the boy to get out of the captivity of a maniac, calling a black phone from somewhere in the afterlife. Thanks to them, Finny himself becomes stronger and defeats the villain.
This is a purely spectator movie, not pretending to have a deep meaning. The story of Joe Hill, of which it is a film adaptation, is also quite simple. Moreover, the film is an extended version of the writer’s work. In the story, Finney only spoke on the phone to the dead Bruce, although he constantly heard calls. The hero’s sister there did not possess any supernatural abilities – it was only the boy’s fantasy, and the father was not cruel. The story does not provide a detailed history leading up to Finney’s abduction, nor does it provide information about what happened after the release.
Both the picture of Scott Derrickson and the work of Joe Hill can be attributed to the genre of an entertaining thriller. Detailed analysis is hardly appropriate here. The riddle that remained unsolved in the final can only be called the constant change of masks by the maniac. However, this is, rather, nothing more than an additional touch to his nature, which speaks of a desire to scare and some randomness – also frightening. In the film, the villain does not have nerves of steel: he has weaknesses (a cruel “game”, his brother constantly interferes, loss of vigilance), he makes mistakes. This is also shown in the story. There, the Achilles’ heel of a maniac is his fullness and sluggishness. However, the almost never sleeping drug addict brother was also present in the story.
Frame from the film.
The film has a rather rich exposition: we learn about the relationship of a loving brother and sister, about the father’s cruelty and its causes. This allows you to empathize with the characters more. Both Finny and Gwen gradually gain strength by resisting external circumstances. The evil they fight is shown both in the attacks of the school bullies and in the actions of the father and the maniac. The similarity of the cruel deeds of the latter is emphasized. But in the end, the father sincerely repents, and the maniac is defeated. Bullies, after all that has happened, become not so scary, one such bully, among other victims who call the black phone, even helps the hero.
In addition to an interesting backstory, the background for the main events of the picture is the atmosphere of the seventies. But, unlike many films (even horror films), the authors do not give it a nostalgic and romantic connotation: the people here are not kinder, “the grass is not greener.” The effect of the worn film also emphasizes this.
If you still look for the main idea and essence of the film, then everything comes down to the seemingly banal, but, I would like to believe, the truth: goodness, love and friendship must win. True, in order for this to happen, sometimes you have to act tough – to match the surrounding cruel world, relying only on yourself (like Robin at the beginning and Finney at the end).
Ending explanation The Black Phone
In the final, Finny, who has not changed externally, becomes much stronger internally. He gains confidence, as evidenced by a slight smile when looking at old enemies and asking Donna to call him by an adult name. This explanation of the ending corresponds to the meaning of the entire film. We have witnessed the story of the growing up of the hero, his transformation. He, trying to do without violence, had to face it to the fullest and act accordingly.
Adding to the explanation for the Black Phone ending is that, judging by it, the need to act tough didn’t make Finny a monster. His power is also the power of love and friendship, embodied in Gwen, Robin, and other boy assistants.
Frame from the film.
Similar films of The Black Phone
- It (USA, 2017). Friendly children fight back the evil monster clown terrorizing them – a film adaptation of the novel by Stephen King.
- Stand by Me (1986). Another screen adaptation by Stephen King, dedicated to friendly teenagers looking for a missing boy – this time in the genre of not horror, but adventure.
- Summer of 84 (USA, 2017). A retrothriller about teenagers who figure out a maniac.
- Stranger Things (TV series, USA, since 2016). A story about children fighting evil from a parallel world in a nostalgic atmosphere of the eighties.
- The Lovely Bones (USA, New Zealand, UK, 2009). A girl killed by a maniac lives in a fantasy world and wants to capture the villain.