Book to Movie Exchange!
Today, I and Steven Arellano Rose, Jr. are trading Book to Movie posts. He is visiting today, taking on The Black Phone, while I am at his site, tackling Relic. Be sure to read both pieces.
Now, please welcome Steven!
Book-To-Movie Review: 'The Black Phone'
Reviewed by Steven Arellano Rose
It was really nice of Alex to invite me here to do a Book-To-Movie review as a guest blogger and for him to do likewise at my blog, A Far Out Fantastic Site. Thanks Alex! In a Book-To-Movie we review a work of prose fiction and its movie adaptation. Today I’m reviewing Joe Hill's short story "The Black Phone" and its movie adaptation. Both the film and its prose source are made really good. However, the movie further develops the characters and specifies a period setting.
“The Black Phone” short story comes from Hill’s 2005 collection, "20th Century Ghosts."
“Phone” is about a young teenager, Finney, who is abducted by a serial killer known as the "Grabber" and imprisoned in the cellar of the killer's house. There he discovers an old, black analog phone with a severed cord. He has no other way of calling out for help. Because mobile phones are never mentioned or hinted at, we assume the story is set pre-cell phone era sometime. Yet, even though the phone line is dead Finney receives a call on it from one of the serial killer's murdered victims.
The plot to “Phone” is intelligently put together. The action and events are timed good creating suspense while moving the story. The characters are well developed and their relations to each other good and convincing. “The Black Phone” is supernatural and psychological horror with both a realist side as well as a fantastical one and Hill balances out all four of these aspects really good.
“The Black Phone” movie, directed by Scott Derrickson, does a really great job interpreting the short story. It expands on the characters and events without straying from the original plot. Like in the short story, the characters and their relations to each other are developed good. There are a few differences. To name a few, the serial killer, renamed “The Galesburg Grabber”, is presented more visually demonic with the devil masks wears. Finney also encounters more murdered victims’ ghosts.
Another difference between the movie and short story is that the former specifies the time setting: the late 1970s. This time period works good because its remoteness from the ‘90s’ rise of the cell phone assures believability in Finney’s desperate situation. Speaking of believability, the period culture in this film is depicted convincingly. The exception to this is that all references to disco, a permeating fad of that time, are omitted. Still, the film uses some good hard and soft rock songs from the era.
Like Hill does with his story, the producers do a good job with the movie balancing the supernatural and psychological horror elements along with the realist and fantastical ones.
I won't say that I like “The Black Phone” movie better than I do the short story or even that one was made better than the other. That's because Joe Hill is really good with his style of writing and makes his stories believable, and “Phone” is no exception. However, the movie's hour-and-43-minute time frame allows for more development of the characters and their interrelations than what the length of the short story allows. Both short story and movie are really good, each in its own right, but, as far as this year’s horror films go, "The Black Phone" has been the best. Have you read Joe Hill's "The Black Phone" or seen the movie adaptation?
About Steven Arellano Rose
I am a writer and pop culture critic in the genres of science fiction, horror and fantasy. The Fool’s Illusion, a short story collection, was my first published book. From 2011 to its closing in 2016, I wrote film and computer technology reviews for the news site, Examiner.com. Bad Appps is my upcoming collection of short fiction. My interests include collecting 1960s and ’70s pop cultural artifacts and other weird things, disco music and meditation. I reside in my native Sacramento, California. Visit me at my blog, A Far Out Fantastic Site, Facebook page, or on Instagram!
From the IMDB:
The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.
Debuting on Hulu, Prey could’ve (and should’ve) been a big theater release. (And it quickly became Hulu’s biggest hit.) This is quality filmmaking.
Setting it in the past with the Comanches was brilliant. This places the Predator in new territory and eliminates a lot of high-tech gadgets. But it also places the Predator in a story that is compelling on its own and characters that are believable and with depth. As my wife put it, this is a thrilling adventure that just happens to have a Predator in it. Amber Midthunder is Naru and she carries the story. You understand her plight, along with her strengths and her weaknesses.
The cinematography is stunning. Beautiful ranges, mountains, and forests dominate the scenery.
The special effects are also on par with a big theater release, from the Predator to the animals such as the puma and bear. (However, Naru’s dog is very real and smart and they have quite a special bond.)
You will be riveted until the very end and thoroughly enjoy the ride.
Released earlier this year, this is a film that should have been direct to streaming.
Mark Wahlberg’s character recruits Tom Holland’s character to track down a fortune lost for five hundred years.
It’s a chase and a puzzle-solver, cat-and-mouse and who can you trust. However, despite the cast (which includes Antonio Banderas) and the promise of adventure, not much stands out. It’s a bit vanilla. And it’s also too long. Did I also mention a lot of improbable and impossible stuff? It’s a lot of things you’ve seen in other films and most of it not done really well.
Yet another movie based on a video game laid to waste…
Not recommended unless you are really bored, really curious, or are busy cleaning the house at the time.
Based on graphic novels/comics written by Neil Gaiman.
I enjoyed the graphic novels and this series is very faithful to its source material. It has a strong dream-like quality to it. The scenery, the special effects, the characters – all a bit surreal and otherworldly.
Tom Sturridge is Dream and perfectly cast – mysterious, confident, and purposeful. David Thewlis is also excellent and very creepy in a psychotic way. My wife’s favorite character is Matthew the Raven, voiced by Patton Oswalt. (MST3K and Ratatouille)
If you’re a fan of the graphic novels or just appreciate great fantasy-horror, you need to check it out.
See you September 7 for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group - and the release of our anthology, First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts. Plus images from RiffTrax: Live – Return of the Swamp Thing and the September movie preview. Be sure to visit Steven Arellano Rose, Jr. today for my Book to Movie post.
And I have to end with this cool con cosplay photo my publisher sent:
And I have to end with this cool con cosplay photo my publisher sent: