The Black Phone is currently one of the most discussed and highest-rated horror films of the year. The film has performed so well internationally because it is not merely nostalgic to capitalize on a previous IP but also reminiscent of vintage photographs and the era of flared jeans, striped baby t-shirts, and The Ramones.
The film, adapted from Joe Hill’s short story of the same name by Stephen King’s son, stars Ethan Hawke as “The Grabber,” a psychotic masked villain. He is a serial killer and pedophile sadist who abducts children and locks them in a confined basement where only a black telephone is visible. Madeleine McGraw (Gwen) and Mason Thames (Jack) also deliver outstanding performances as children in the film (Finney).
The majority of the plot focuses on Finney’s attempts to flee Grabber’s basement. However, there’s a catch. Finney is unable to dial out because there is a black phone in the corner, and the line has been severed. Nonetheless, it continues to ring in his mind. What is wrong with this phone? The following questions remain unanswered.
The Black Phone: Seven Mysteries
1. What is the black phone exactly?
What is the black phone exactly? is a question that lingers throughout the entire film. Yes, that is a black phone. However, there is obviously more to it than that. When Finney first discovers himself locked in the Grabber’s basement, it appears to be no more useful than a random piece of junk lying around.
Finney is soon left alone and startled by the jarring, vintage phone ring. From this point on, Finney is able to communicate with the deceased via the telephone. However, these are not ordinary souls. He can only communicate with those whose souls were ripped from this world by the Grabber’s filthy hands.
There is a clear connection between the location, the black phone, and the boys who were probably murdered in the basement. The Grabber is also likely to have a connection; as the film progresses, the Black Phone is revealed to be the link between the killer, the victim, and a haunting past.
2. Does Finney have powers like his sister?
When her brother and best friend disappear, Gwen becomes desperate to locate him. Fortunately, Gwen possesses a rare talent that her father views as a curse: clairvoyance, which enables her to see visions of the real world in her dreams; the children’s mother possessed a similar talent, which their father, Terrence, largely blames for her downfall.
Perhaps, just possibly, the black phone is not particularly unique. Perhaps Finney has a similar ability to his sister, and it has manifested itself in the form of this broken phone on the prison wall at a painful time. Perhaps, similar to Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense,” “The Black Phone” is about a young boy who can communicate with the dead and help them complete unfinished business (stopping the Grabber). The history of this family raises questions, despite the fact that the film neither confirms nor denies this scenario.
3. What was Max doing without knowledge?
It does not appear that The Grabber beats or murders his victims, nor does he appear to be a sexual predator. He assures Finney that he will not suffer any harm. He even tries to cheer Finney up with coke and feeds him every day. Sitting in the kitchen while wearing a mask and holding a belt, he gives the impression to his captives that they may be able to escape. He refers to this game as “Naughty Boy,” and it is difficult for prisoners to resist the open door. Finney can’t wait until the Grabber begins to catch up on his sleep.
The dog ultimately foils his escape attempt, and he is returned to captivity. However, the audience comes to believe that Max (James Ransone), the Grabber’s hyperactive, crime-addicted brother, is living with him and is unaware of his extracurricular activities. Where was Max as Finney ascended the stairs? How was he oblivious to the dog’s barking and the argument in the living room and kitchen? The film’s conclusion provides some explanation, but there is a great deal of background noise to ignore.
4. How did The Grabber miss the escape’s telltale signs?
A ghost instructed Finney to dig a hole in the ground in order to escape. He did it and concealed his footprints at night, but his clothing became muddy. It is odd that he washed his hands in the toilet bowl. The Grabber was unaware that his clothes were dirty.
During this time, a second spirit assisted Finney in his attempt to escape through the window. It failed, resulting in the collapse of the window’s metal grill to the floor. Despite this, the Grabber never noticed the window or grill, which were absent from the film.
5. Why did The Grabber refrain from punishing Finney?
Finney observes that the Grabber fell asleep while awaiting his turn to play Naughty Boy; now is his chance. In an attempt to flee, he gets past the closed door and out into the open, but the Grabber is awakened by the dog’s barking and recaptures him. But the Grabber only confines the child once more before returning to the upper level. The punishment for playing the role of Naughty Boy is intended to be severe, and Finney advanced more rapidly than most. Consequently, why are there no severe consequences?
At this point, the boy appears to be a liability, and the next logical step for the murderer would be to eliminate him. However, he achieves none of these goals. Indeed, he makes multiple references to how differently he views Finney. Does he like the boy? Perhaps he recognizes himself in Finney. Nobody knows.
6. Why didn’t the thief alter the lock?
The combination bike lock on the front door is the most conspicuous remnant of the crimes that he exposed. Finney obtains the combination with the assistance of a benevolent ghost and temporarily escapes before The Grabber recaptures him and re-arrests him.
You would expect The Grabber to alter the lock at this point. However, why did he not do it? This lock belonged to one of the boys he had previously kidnapped and murdered, as we have discovered. This youngster was the one who informed Finney of the combination. Did he use the same lock when he imprisoned the boy?
He must have because the child knew the lock combination and had written it on the basement wall. Why, then, would the Grabber use a lock whose combination one of his previous victims already knew but which his current victim has only recently discovered? Is it influenced by emotion? This contributes to the mystique surrounding The Grabber and his nefarious methods.
7. Who is The Grabber, and what is his background?
The Grabber is the only thing more mysterious than the black phone’s underlying powers. Similar to Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the Joker, this individual has no rationale for his actions. Does he abduct kids simply because he can? He believes that he can get away with it. Is he amused by others’ suffering? Does he truly wish to be apprehended?
All of these possibilities appear plausible, as does an entirely different path. As a child, did The Grabber experience trauma, possibly including an abduction? Or perhaps he was a victim of relentless bullying, which explains why he chooses young victims who all appear to be filled with anguish and violence. Perhaps Naughty Boy is a game in which he takes out his anger on his victims. There are numerous possibilities, but The Grabber is ultimately a mystery with little history to explain him. Possibly this is what makes him so frightening.
Watch The Black Phone, which is currently available on Amazon Prime Video, if you want to solve these mysteries.