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:
I think it would be really tough to adapt a short story to a nearly two-hour movie. Sounds like "The Black Phone" screenwriter made it work!
I never heard of The Black Phone, but the movie sounds like one I'd like. I was already planning to watch The Sandman. Now I really want to watch it. Thanks.
Prey was really good. I think it was over 6 years ago that I did a whole A to Z Challenge on Page to Screen or movies adapted from books. The most important thing with those was always maintaining the spirit of the story rather than the specific events. I haven't seen or read The Black Phone so I couldn't really say how well it does that.
The Black Phone sounds intriguing. I think it is something I would read or watch. I have never heard of it. It reminded me of my aunts haunted place and the strange call my cousin and I received during a storm. Spooky….
Great photo at the end.
It's that time of year again, when August draws to a close and the stores are already displaying Halloween candy and costumes. Writers and critics are reviewing scary books and films, and me likey. I would be interested in seeing The Black Phone, especially since it is set in the 1970s. Prey and Sandman also seem like films I'd enjoy.
Thanks for the reviews, good buddy Alex, and have a super week!
I would like to read the Black Phone so will try to find it. That's amazing that a film could be produced from a short story.
Great reviews. I'm intrigued by The Black Phone--I first thought he'd reconnect the snipped wires, but there probably wasn't service! Predator sounds a lot better than I'd expected. I like the era--Indians. They were tough fighters. Maybe a match for the Predator?
I haven't gotten to Prey yet.
Sandman was excellent.
Glad Gaiman went with Netflix and didn't let WB have anything real to do with it.
Great reviews Alex, I've been debating whether to watch the Sandman or not. I think I have better clarity about it now. Thanks Alex :)
I will checkboutcwgat Alex wrote. I am not familiar with the book or the film...does the film star Ethan Hawke? I have seen clips of a strange movie.
I gave no desire to see any of the films you spoke about...I'm not into Preditor so...I will try and see if there is anything good at the theatre
What a clever idea for a story. I love reading books from the 60s and 70s. He could have set it as a contemporary story and kidnapped a millennial. The phone could still be live, but the millennial would not know how to operate it to call for help!!
I enjoyed your review. Embellishing the characters in the movie and taking time to expand the story is a plus for allowing Hollywood to buy the rights to a story.
PT, sometimes they even botch up the spirit.
Jacqui, maybe a match indeed!
JQ, I like that twist!
Prey didn't disappoint. Is it the best Predator movie? No.
I had not heard of The Black Phone story or movie. I'm really out of the loop with movies lately. I'm surprised I hadn't at least heard of it.
I never heard of the story or the movie, but it's a great review. Best on this post though is that cosplay image. How cool! Do you know her? Fans are the best! Congrats.
I think he did. You're right about it being tough; a lot of movie adaptations of short stories too easily stray far from the original plot, but this one sticks really good to it while giving its own distinct interpretation.
I haven't seen Sandman, but I definitely recommend Black Phone.
I believe they also did an A to Z challenge of movie adaptations this year too. Unfortunately I didn't have time to read them all, but of what I did read they had some interesting ones.
Thanks! Yes, movies and stories about strange phone calls have always creeped me out to (in a good way, of course!).
I some how always sense October as the end of August nears giving something to look forward too!
Like I said, it's in Hill's 20th Century Ghosts collection which has actually been re-titled The Black Phone to promote the movie. I think you'll like it.
They didn't really promote the movie like they do a lot of horror movies from franchises such as Halloween.
Review: Thanks, Rhonda!
I never cared much for the Predator movies, but this one sounds like it has an interesting twist. Yeah, of what I've read about Chartered the movie really turned me off. I think I would only watch it once just to see how bad it gets! Lol
I like when a short story is elevated by a movie.
bummer that the Tom Holland movie isn't great!
Blue! Good to hear from you. Second best Predator movie for sure.
Rhonda, no I don't. But it's a fun photo.
Steven, it's a great movie that just happens to have a Predator in it. Watch it. And be prepared for how bad Chartered is. Mostly just bland as heck.
Cool pic of the book.
Sounds like Joe Hill is a chip off the old block.
Don't worry, I believe it's really bad. I had my doubts about it almost from the beginning. I'm prepared!
excellent short story/movie review. I am intrigued. As for Uncharted, I laughed out loud that you could clean house while watching - SO TRUE. I like Tom and Mark, but they couldn't save this at all. I gave up half hour in.
It's a very dry movie season. I'm reading more and that's a plus.
Happy Labor Day weekend coming up!
Welcome, Steven. I wasn't familiar with The Black Phone, but I'm now intrigued.
Alex, loved the con photo. On my way over to Steven's.
He definitely takes after his dad in that he writes a lot of horror and dark fiction, yet he has his own style and his stories seem to be more literate in that they're more interpretive especially in their endings.
Hi Alex and your guest Steven - I like the idea of reading The Black Phone - I'll see if I can get it - the movie at some stage. The Sandman I'd definitely like to see ... cheers Hilary
You both did great reviews. And what a fun idea to host the other's blog.
The Black Phone sounds like something I might like. I still need to watch Prey.
Joanne, you were wise to give up.
Mary, watch Prey!! Really good.
Haha Or busy cleaning the house. Hubby loves action flicks and enjoyed it for what it was worth. A popcorn movie.
The Black Phone, what a cool premise, and perfect for Halloween. :)
Loved the review, all of them. Thanks, Steven, and Alex.
Might watch Phone and Prey!
I saw Black Phone in the cinema. I loved it. Did you happen to pick up the subtle tributes to Stephen King's IT?
I also loved the Sandman and would also recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy /horror...
WOW! The cosplay character it so fun and fantastic.
I haven't read the Black Phone or watched the film but now I want to. And Neil Gaiman is one all-time favourite! The photo is seriously neat.
"Prey" looks awesome. I think I'll check it out.
"Uncharted" looks silly. I think I'll blow it off.
Thanks for the Interesting reviews. Still weighing in on Sandman, but I most likely will see it.
Alex, are you getting any writing done?
Hello Captain! Nice to "meet" you Steven!
Saw this post while on the road and just had to come back to it! Great reviews, by the way. I probably won't stop thinking about Black Phone until I see it. Prey and Sandman are already on my list.
This "trading places" idea is terrific! Now I'm off to A Far Out Fantastic Site
I agree with your assessment of all three shows. Prey was fabulous. Uncharted was not at all thrilling. And The Sandman was excellent. People tend to remember David Thewlis as Remus from the Harry Potter films, but he always sticks out in my head as Varga the psycho in the most recent Fargo TV show season. He plays completely unnerving so well.
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