The Black Phone (2021)

The Black Phone
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writer: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Based on: Joe Hill‘s short story
Cast: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Ransone, Miguel Cazarez Mora, Rebecca Clarke, J. Gaven Wilde, Spencer Fitzgerald, Jordan Isaiah White, Brady M. Ryan, Tristan Pravong, Jacob Moran, Brady Hepner, Banks Repeta
Seen on: 27.6.2022

Plot:
Finney (Mason Thames) and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) live in a small town with their alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies). Boys have been going missing from the town for a while, and there are persistent rumors of The Grabber who nabs them. Finney finds that The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) is very real indeed when he himself is taken and locked into a sound-proof cellar. Desperate, Finney sees no way to escape. But then the disconnected phone on the wall starts ringing, and The Grabber’s previous victims start to give Finney advice. Meanwhile, Gwen tries everything to find Finney, and since she sometimes sees things in her dreams, she might actually be able to help.

The Black Phone is an atmospheric and very scary film that you shouldn’t look at too closely when it comes to plot.

The film poster showing The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) wearing his mask, his hands dissolving into a red liquid.
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In the Tall Grass (2019)

In the Tall Grass
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writer: Vincenzo Natali
Based on: Stephen King and Joe Hill‘s novella
Cast: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr., Rachel Wilson, Harrison Gilbertson
Seen on: 5.1.2022

Plot:
Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) just wanted to take a quick break on their roadtrip when they hear a young boy crying for help in the field next to the road: he lost his way in the tall grass and can’t get back to the road. Becky and Cal head into the field themselves – and find that they can’t get back either. There is something strange going on in the grass.

In the Tall Grass is very notably a King/Hill adaptation. If that’s your thing, you will be well satisfied, though not particularly surprised. It is typical stuff after all. If that’s not your thing, you probably don’t need to try to see whether you like it anyway.

The film poster showing a grass field with a bloody hand stretching up out of it.
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NOS4A2 (Joe Hill)

NOS4A2 (or alternatively NOS4R2) is a novel by Joe Hill.
Finished on: 19.5.2019

Content Note: fatmisia, ableism

Plot:
When Vic was a child, she learned that she has a special ability that leads her find lost things. That very same ability brings her to Maggie who has the ability to predict the future with scrabble tiles. She warns Vic of a man, Charles Manx, who abducts children in his Rolls Royce Wraith. When Vic goes looking for Manx, their fates become twined together – until Manx even comes looking for Vic’s son.

There were a couple of things that bothered me about NOS4A2 but overall it was a really good read that reminded me more of Stephen King than Hill’s other novels.

The book cover showing the title as a license plate written in blood.
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Creepshow (1982)

Creepshow
Director: George A. Romero
Writer: Stephen King
Based on: his own short stories (partly)
Cast: Hal HolbrookAdrienne BarbeauFritz WeaverLeslie NielsenE.G. MarshallViveca LindforsEd HarrisTed Danson, Stephen King, Robert HarperGaylen RossJon LormerDon KeeferBingo O’MalleyJoe Hill
Part of: /slash Filmfestival (extra screening)
Seen on: 8.9.2017
1-gif-review

Plot:
Billy (Joe Hill) reads a Creepshow comic, against the wishes of his father (Tom Atkins). The comic tells different stories – of an awkward family dinner where the murderous past comes back to haunt them; of a farmer finding a strange meteorite; of a vengeful husband doling out punishment to his unfaithful wife and her lover; of a dangerous creature in a crate; of a mysophobic man whose safeguards fail him – that the father doesn’t approve of. But Billy doesn’t want to give up the comic. 

As with many anthology movies, Creepshow’s different segments differ widely and the overall impression I have of the film isn’t particularly great, even though there were many bits that I did enjoy.

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Re-Read: Horns (Joe Hill)

Horns is Joe Hill‘s second novel. [Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
A year ago, Ig had it all: a nice girlfriend, a good family, a great best friend and he was about to get the job he always dreamt about. And then his girlfriend, Merrin, gets raped and murdered – and Ig is the only suspect. Bit by bit, his life and he himself fall apart.
The day after the anniversary of Merrin’s death, Ig wakes up with the worst hangover of his life – and horns growing out of his head. While Ig still wonders whether the horns are really there or not, he notices that they have an effect on people: They tell him all their darkest secrets and lowest impulses. Soon Ig decides that he will use the horns to finally learn the identity of Merrin’s killer.

Even on re-reading, Horns is a compulsive read that tells an interesting, layered story where probably most people will find something that interests them.

joehillhorns

[SPOILERS] Continue reading

Horns (Joe Hill)

Horns is Joe Hill‘s second novel. [I reviewed his first one here.]

Plot:
A year ago, Ig had it all: a nice girlfriend, a good family, a great best friend and he was about to get the job he always dreamt about. And then his girlfriend, Merrin, gets raped and murdered – and Ig is the only suspect. Bit by bit, his life and he himself fall apart.
The day after the anniversary of Merrin’s death, Ig wakes up with the worst hangover of his life – and horns growing out of his head. While Ig still wonders whether the horns are really there or not, he notices that they have an effect on people: They tell him all their darkest secrets and lowest impulses.
Soon Ig decides that he will use the horns to finally learn the identity of Merrin’s killer.

Horns was really very good.It’s beautifully written and features a lot of interesting ideas about people, about religion and about all kinds of things. And it’s probably the best horror novel for people who don’t like horror novels.

[Sweet cover.]

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Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

Joe Hill is one of the sons of Stephen King. I just found out, so, that’s not why I picked the book. [I picked it because I like horror stories and it had a blurb by Neil Gaiman.] And it’s not like he writes like his father, so you don’t read the novel and are all like “oh, he tries to copy Stephen King”.

Right, back to the topic at hand.

Heart-Shaped Box is the story of Judas Coyne, an ageing rock star [think a stronger, younger today Ozzy Osbourne], who buys a ghost over the internet for his collection of the occult. Unfortunately, it’s not the nice variety of ghost and things start to get out of hand.

The book is scary and gripping and well written. His style is very movie-like [and I, apparently, was not the only one to pick this up].

Jude and Georgia/Marybeth are great characters, very real. You really want them to survive, to win. And both their stories, but especially Jude’s, are like a text book example [in a good way] for character development.

Hill manages to include almost every kind of abuse into his story. At least, that’s what it feels like. Let me tell you, people are evil.

Unfortunately, Hill has a bit of a tendency to slip into clichés [the grandmother, goths in general, the assistant] and the ending almost ruins the whole thing.

[SPOILER WARNING]

They need to make a door to let the ghost of Jude’s ex defeat the murderous ghost, who happens to be her father. And how do they make the door? Jude paints it in blood. And the thing won’t open until he paints it a doorknob.

And I know I have seen that before. [I’m thinking it was in Beetle Juice, but I’m not sure.] Things like that bug me. A lot. Think of your own solutions! And if you don’t, at least don’t use the same twists.

And then the good light that comes to destroy the bad ghost, that was a tad too much as well.

[END SPOILERS]

But that was not the only thing that bothered me about the ending. It all seemed so strained.

Another detail that made me smirk more than it actually bothered me, was the product placement for ebay. to clarify: I don’t know if Hill got paid for it or not, but it was always like “Oh, if I had bought this ghost on ebay, I could send it back now”.

But none of this could change that the first 350 pages of the book were great, the ghost(s) really scary and that altogether, I liked the book.

[And maybe Joe Hill and Stephen King have more in common – Stephen King’s endings are usually the weakest thing about his books as well. ;)]