“The Black Phone,” directed by Scott Derrickson, further proved that the horror genre was on fire in 2022. In a glorious throwback to the days of 1970s stranger danger, the film focuses on a string of child abductions in a Denver suburb. These unsolved kidnappings are the work of a person referred to only as The Grabber. Early on in the film, our main character Finney is kidnapped by a strange man in a black magician’s van, pulling him into a nightmare.
This man is revealed to be The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), and he now has Finney trapped in a soundproof basement. The Grabber, for reasons never explained, wears a creepy white devil mask with interchangeable mouths to showcase different emotions. Throughout the film, he’s constantly toying with Finney, bating him to come upstairs so he can kill him.
What makes The Grabber so scary, like many great horror antagonists, is how little we’re told about him. Aside from inferring certain details from his black van and his masks, we’re never given his backstory or anything else to work with. However, this in no way makes The Grabber underwritten, as the ambiguity adds to the disturbing nature of the character. Additionally, Ethan Hawke is clearly having a blast with his performance, showcasing impressive range despite his face mostly being covered.