American coming-of-age supernatural horror film The Black Phone was released in 2021. It is an adaptation of Joe Hill’s (Stephen King’s son) 2004 short story of the same name. In the movie, a kidnapped teen makes use of an enigmatic telephone to get in touch with his captor’s prior victims.

It earned $161 million and was hailed for its performances and fidelity to the source material. It was a critical and financial triumph.


A cruel killer kidnaps Finney Shaw, a shy but intelligent 13-year-old boy, and imprisons him in a soundproof cellar where screaming is useless. Finney learns that he can hear the voices of the killer’s prior victims when a disconnected phone on the wall starts to ring. And they are determined to prevent Finney from suffering the same fate as what happened to them.

Fun facts

(1) The Black Phone is an adaptation of the 2004 short story of the same name by Joe Hill. it is part of a compendium of other short stories in the book, 20th Century Ghosts, published in 2008 by Joe Hill.

(2) Derrickson added a sequence from The Tingler (1959), the black and white film with the red blood that Finney is watching on TV. Derrickson said that he was very frightened of the film when he first saw the movie as a child.

(3) Ethan Hawke is the owner of the jewelry worn by The Grabber (two rings and a silver bracelet).

(4) In six weeks, the script was written. The movie was filmed over 33 days.

(5) Throughout the movie, The Grabber appears to be wearing a number of unsettling masks that reveal various parts of his face. Legendary prosthetic makeup artist Tom Savini created them. Mason Thames recalled being frightened when he first saw the mask and Ethan Hawke’s terrifying performance.

(6) The paperboy is a reference to Johnny Gosch, an Iowan paperboy who vanished while out on a route with his dog Gretchen. Later, his dog was located, but Johnny’s disappearance is still unresolved.

(7) In the short story, The Grabber is a clown, but Hill himself suggested that in a world after It, they should change him to a magician. Early versions of the script also called for leather masks with either a smile or a frown, but Scott Derrickson spent a lot of time developing them because he knew they would be the focus of the movie’s marketing.

(8) The Grabber, who abducted a child heading home from a baseball game while donning a stovepipe hat, is very similar to Rose the Hat in Stephen King’s 2019 novel Doctor Sleep, authored by Joe Hill’s father.

(9) Black balloons are used by The Grabber to kidnap his victims. This reminds me of the daughter’s bedroom wall artwork from the same writer/director Scott Derrickson’s 2012 film Sinister, which also stars Ethan Hawke and has a figure holding black balloons.

(10) Although masks weren’t present in the original Joe Hill tale, Derrickson liked the notion of The Grabber donning a mask and being unable to be himself without it.