Black Phone trailer: deaths on the phone and a sadistic killer for the director of Sinister

Five years after a detour through the Marvel Cinematic Universe with “Doctor Strange”, Scott Derrickson returns to horror with “Black Phone”. While the trailer has just been unveiled, the director tells us about his new film.

“A child is kidnapped. He is locked in a soundproof basement, surrounded by the remains of other victims. At nightfall, the telephone – although not connected – in the house starts ringing…” : such is the synopsis of Black Phone, a new film by Scott Derrickson whose trailer has just been unveiled.

Five years after the release of Doctor Strange, his first (and so far last) foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the director returns to horror, a genre that revealed him thanks to The Exorcism of Emily Rose or Sinister , in which he already directed Ethan Hawke. Back in front of his camera, the actor is this time the villain of this feature film, which is scheduled for release with us on January 26, 2022.

Adapted from a short story by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, the story takes us back to the 1970s and the story of child abduction takes a supernatural turn when Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), the latest victim of Albert (Ethan Hawke), is helped by his late predecessors, who communicate with him via an unplugged black telephone in the room where he is being held captive.

While the images of a child dressed in a yellow raincoat are reminiscent of Stephen King’s It and Ethan Hawke seems to be preparing a performance that is both expansive and chilling, the director spoke about this horrific new project produced by Jason Blum at our microphone.

AlloCiné: Where did the desire to make this horror film come from, after your time at Marvel with “Doctor Strange”?
Scott Derrickson : I like horror cinema, since I made Sinister in 2012 before making Doctor Strange. It is true that, recently, I had broadened my horizons as a director, but I came across the short story of a few pages from Joe Hill, who is Stephen King’s son, and I cracked up. I had read his story more than sixteen years ago while reading his book in a bookstore. I didn’t know he was Stephen King’s son and I just thought right away that it could make a great movie.

About a year ago, I was lucky enough to be able to embark on a new cinematic adventure and I immersed myself in adapting this novella. I wanted to return to my passion for horror cinema and Black Phone was the perfect opportunity.

What particularly motivated you in this story?
I have been in therapy for a few years. Especially because I had had some bad experiences when I was young, which influenced my transition to adulthood. I really wanted to make a film that reflects the environment, the neighborhood in which I grew up. I lived in Denver in the late 70s, in a tough neighborhood with a lot of insecurity, violence and abuse of all kinds. What’s more, I was the youngest boy among all these drifting youngsters.

It was also the time when Ted Bundy had passed through our house killing more than once. And Charles Manson made headlines with the sad murder of Sharon Tate. I even had to deal with the murder of a friend’s mother who lived near us. I really lived in an ultra morbid atmosphere, not to mention the abuse of violence against many young people by their parents. It was really a dark period of my life. The fear was in me and in my family.

With this film, I wanted to do something that emulates Les 400 coups by François Truffaut. So Black Phone is the perfect cross between this film and my memories of a troubled youth. Moreover, this story responds to one of the additional anxieties of my youth, that of being kidnapped by a psycho, without my knowledge. Not to mention that the supernatural element of this news added a touch of additional angst.

I had Ethan Hawke in mind to play the villain because of his creepy voice.

Is it a film that was complicated to set up and shoot?
No, quite the contrary. I was given complete freedom, without too many notes [des producteurs] for writing, and even less when I was filming and editing. I had Ethan Hawke in mind [pour le méchant], because of his creepy voice, and it works perfectly. I was really left alone to compose the cast that I wanted. Including for the two young people, who dazzled me during their audition. It was really the easiest film to shoot in my entire career. I wrote the film in five weeks, submitted it to Jason Blum, and Universal gave the thumbs up in an instant. It is fabulous ! We shot in just thirty-two days, it’s incredible. I was really left alone.

What are the main themes explored by the film?
It is the theme of fear that dominates everything. Especially when I refer to my youth. But I hope that everyone will find their account. Everyone goes through difficult times in their youth, and I hope this film will help more than one in this personal struggle. No one has perfect youth. I hope this film can help you get through this period which is often difficult. In any case, making this film helped me turn the page on what I experienced. This is by far the most personal and emotional film I have directed.

Did any weird things happen during filming?
During filming, absolutely nothing. However, I recently bought a house, and Jason Blum and my wife surprised me by installing a black telephone in the basement. Since then, the phone has been ringing and I refuse to come down to answer it.

Interview by Emmanuel Itier in Los Angeles on October 13, 2021

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