Blumhouse produced the popular horror flick The Black Phone in 2022. This horrifying coming-of-age tale, which was directed by Scott Derrickson and co-produced and written by Robert Cargill, is among many horror fans’ top picks for the best scary films of the year. The Black Phone seizes the audience’s emotions and torments them while escalating the eeriness. This results primarily from the director’s involvement with the project, as the movie contains many of his horrific childhood memories.
The Black Phone, based on the short novel by Joe Hill (son of horror icon Stephen King), is a chilling story about a little child named Finney (Mason Thames) who is abducted by a serial murderer known as The Grabber (Ethan Hawke). The little sister of Finney, Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), will use her psychic skills to do whatever she can to locate him before it’s too late. But Finney won’t be fighting The Grabber alone; the ghosts of his former victims are out for vengeance.
Here is some more information on the serial killers active during the time period where the film is set, as well as how the director’s personal experiences impacted certain aspects of the adaption.
The Black Phone Is Related to the Serial Killer Era
The US 1970s are the setting for The Black Phone. Many true crime enthusiasts consider this time to be the origin of the serial murderer. Since serial killers have existed throughout history, at least as far as society’s understanding of them. At a time when the idea of a secure America seemed unbreakable, it is astonishing how many of the most infamous and vicious murderers were still at large. Even more research is being done to try to figure out why there has been an increase in terrible killings.
The 1970s produced a number of notorious serial killers. Among them are David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam), who killed six people and injured seven more, Ted Bundy, who is infamous for killing at least 36 women, The Zodiac Killer, who killed at least five victims while deceiving the authorities with riddles and eluded capture, and The Zodiac Killer. This barely scratches the surface of the startling number of murderous rampages that swept the nation in a decade that appeared to be heralded by the Manson Family killings and the end of “peace and love.”
Gacy Is the Scary True Story Hidden in The Black Phone
So it comes as no surprise that the story’s time period was altered by the director to the 1970s. John Wayne Gacy is another murderer who must not be forgotten when discussing The Black Phone. Gacy was a well-liked citizen who occasionally attended children’s birthday celebrations dressed as a clown. After the bodies of 26 young boys were discovered in his basement, he was found guilty of torturing and sexually abusing at least 33 boys before killing at least 33 of them.
The similarities to The Grabber, a mythical kidnapper and murderer, are obvious. Additionally, the character in the book was obese and dressed like a clown, just like Gacy. The Black Phone’s creators, however, didn’t want a closer connection to Hill’s father’s tale because the film IT, which stars the horrifying demon clown Pennywise, had just been released at the time that work on the project began. The Grabber consequently learned magic.
Inspired By vs. Based On
The Black Phone is not inspired on any specific case or serial murderer, despite the fact that it drew inspiration from real-life instances, aspects of IT, and the filmmaker’s own childhood. When a movie’s opening credits say “inspired by,” it means that the writer or director got the inspiration for the film from something that actually happened, rather than from a true recounting of the event. ‘Based on’ on the other hand suggests that the events and characters are (or should be) based on actual events or a prior work.
Both “based on” and “inspired by” elements of reality can be found in The Black Phone. The short narrative on which the movie is based was edited and inspired by the film’s director. Derrickson told IGN how he changed the original plot while including his own experiences: “The idea came to me to combine my own experiences growing up in a blue-collar, violent neighbourhood in North Denver in the late ’70s with The Black Phone.” Cargill told Yahoo! News that after including the same kinds of tragedies that both he and especially Derrickson faced, he became ultimately more devoted to the movie. Derrickson declared
The ghost children are all just like the youngsters I knew in real life. specifically the Robin Arellano character. I had a friend with that youngster. And some of the things he says in the movie are exactly what I recall dad telling me after I saw him mutilate the face of this little boy across from our middle school behind the Safeway. I thought I had a solid grasp on the many kids who could give this movie some depth.
Because of this, the movie is able to frighten the audience without losing sight of its emotional heart. It is impossible not to identify with and support these children given their traumatic beginnings. The violence in the film—between parents and children as well—the environment, the terror, and the lost lives all have roots in the director’s youth.
The Black Phone was a tremendous success since it was unusual for viewers to watch a kidnapping turned into a ghostly tale. Even though it was painfully cathartic, the amount of care that went into creating a distinct but nonetheless intensely personal experience paid off immensely well.