“The Black Phone” subverts what we usually get in horror movies by having far more character development than expected and a story that isn’t purely to set up jump scares and gore.

Director(s) Scott Derrickson
Screenplay By Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Date Released (In Theaters) 6/24/2022
Genre(s) Crime, Drama, Horror, Young Adult
Duration 1 Hour 42 Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Cast
The Grabber Ethan Hawke
Finney Mason Thames
Robin Miguel Cazarez Mora
Gwen Madeleine McGraw

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Film Summary

It’s 1978 in Denver, and 4 boys have been kidnapped within the last year by someone simply known as “The Grabber.” It isn’t clear if there is a pattern beyond boys being taken or if there is a motive. However, it has shaken the community to its core.

But, while many are aware of The Grabber, unfortunately for Finney, the person who usually is his protector, Robin, ends up kidnapped, leaving him only with his sister Gwen. Someone who has, on more than one occasion, helped him with bullies and even taken a few hits for getting involved, but when The Grabber sets his sights on him, the only thing that may save Finney is that he and Gwen, like their mom, seem able to interact with things not of this world and have visions.

Things To Note

  • Reason(s) for Film Rating: Cursing (Absolutely, including cursing Jesus), Violence (Murder, violence against children, and people getting the crap kicked out of them), Sexual Content (None), Miscellaneous (Alcoholism)
  • Are there mid-credit or end-credit scenes: Nope. The credits just roll, and there is no teasing for additional movies.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. What was up with The Grabber and his mask?

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

The Grabber

The Grabber masquerades as a magician or even a clown who solely uses Black balloons to grab children and knock them out using some form of a spray. From there, he locks them in a basement, testing them to see if they are naughty or nice – but not in a Santa Claus kind of way.


Nerdy and bullied, life isn’t easy for Finney. At home, he deals with a single father who is an alcoholic with a short temper, and at school, he just wants to be able to go to the bathroom without being cornered.


A well-known badass amongst Finney’s grade who knows how to fight like no other. But, despite his ass-kicking skills, Robin is mostly chill on the level of a mini-Bruce Lee. Hence, he and Finney get along, and the two hang out every now and again.


While Gwen looks sugar-sweet, she is someone with quite a potty mouth. But you’ll only see that side of her if she is mad. For the most part, she just hangs out with a friend from school, her brother, and tries to process the visions she gets. A gift her mother had, which her dad doesn’t like talking about since he sees it as ruining her mother’s life.


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)


Gwen & Finney’s Relationship

While Robin might be Finney’s best friend, who helps scare the bullies and protects Finney in exchange for helping with math homework, Gwen is Finney’s ride or die. Despite being younger, she is always down to help her older brother, and one particular fight gets nasty, and Gwen not only beats someone with a rock but takes multiple hits from boys.

In that moment, you see how Gwen is a fighter; whether she is going against adults, boys, or whoever, she’ll stand her ground. But, at the same time, even if her brother wouldn’t do the same for her, like when their dad is beating the hell out of her, there is still a love there. She finds comfort through Finney, and with their mom not around, they seek out each other for consistent affection.

How The Grabber’s Past Victims Play A Role

Whether it is Robin or the other 4 boys, they are both Finney’s saving graces and an element of the horror we see. Each one presents their story, and we see part of their gruesome death, and watching him learn and grow stronger through them is part of his character development. They toughen him up, make him scrappy, and make it so, like his sister, he can be a badass capable of anything. Which includes taking on a grown man whose issues lead him to kidnap even boys who can put up a fight for reasons not delved into.

On The Fence

You Don’t Get The Grabber’s Motive or Backstory

The Grabber is built around the fear of being kidnapped as a kid by some creep. Beyond that? We don’t learn much about him. Yes, his cover is being a magician, but we never see him work and make it clear that is his actual job. Then, in terms of his backstory or motive? Every now and then, they hint that maybe he was in that same basement at one time, maybe because his parents were abusive, but we don’t get his backstory. Heck, we don’t even really get his motive. We know part of the reason he kills the boys is that they leave the basement, which is considered naughty.

However, as for why he picks these particular boys, or solely boys in general? That isn’t clear. Yes, two of them could be considered violent and naughty, but the others are a paper boy who seemed rather nice, a quiet kid, and a baseball player who, even when he defeated Finney’s team, early in the film, was gracious about it.

So if you like your villains fleshed out, The Grabber might be a bit frustrating for you (since they don’t even go into details about who he is at the end of the movie).

Movie Directory

An old school film reel drawn by artist Dean Nelson.

On The Radar


  • Recommended: Some of the best-seen movies we have ever watched and mentioned to friends, family, and strangers as films that need to be seen.
  • Positive (Worth Seeing): Whether you’ll have to go to the movies, download, or stream, movies of this category are worth your time and money with few, if any, qualms from us.
  • Mixed (Divisive): Due to this movie having a few quirks, of which may work for some and for others be a problem, we believe your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your taste.
  • Negative (Acquired Taste): While one or two elements kept us going until the end, unfortunately, we’re of the opinion this film never reached the potential it was marketed to have.

Special Categories/ Tags

  • Indie: By our definition, independent films are films you have to seek to find due to limited availability or lack of a marketing push.
  • Film Festival: Featured in this tag are films and shorts which were discovered thanks to various film festivals, so some of the productions may not have wide availability but still may deserve to be on your watch.
  • Shorts: Be it ten or fifteen minutes, or a half-hour, these quick teases or films get right to the point, often show the potential of filmmakers and the actors who have joined them in their journey.
  • Ending Spoilers: Trying to remember how a film ended, or want a different take on the ending, then check out the "ending spoilers" category. 
Movie Poster - The Black Phone (2022)
The Black Phone (2022) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)
While its villain relies on the age-old fears of a child kidnapper living in your area, which can make him seem underdeveloped, the fear he creates is real. Which, when it comes to our two leads, makes you all the more invested in what they are trying to do and Finney ultimately getting to escape.
Gwen & Finney’s Relationship
How The Grabber’s Past Victims Play A Role
You Don’t Get The Grabber’s Motive or Backstory

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I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and have aimed to be that friend who loves watching various forms of media and talking about it. So, from bias, strong opinions, and a perspective you may not have thought about, you'll find that in our reviews.

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