Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

November 1, 2022

A Binge too Far #27: A duo of Scott Derrickson's Cursed Films (2015 & 2021)

Frame from The Black Phone (2021) featuring Ethan Hawke


I don’t understand people that find it special watching horror films on Halloween. I watch horror films throughout the entire year, and I try to celebrate Halloween by dressing up or scaring people as much too. But to keep up with the trends, and since yesterday was Halloween, please check out my brief thoughts on two Scott Derrickson horror outings.


Sinister 2 (2015) poster

Sinister 2


Hot M.I.L.F. Courtney (ShannynSossamon) has taken her kids Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan) away from their abusive father and to a vacant farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, kindly provided by a friend. The meathead father (Lea Coco) has found the farm, but he is late, because before him Ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone, who brings with him a Shaggy kind of quality of the Scooby Doo, Where are you! TV series [1969 – 1970]) arrived there and befriended the family, and manages to send the bad guy away, duo to a law technicality that the policemen he brought with him did not foresee. So & So is the only returning character from the first film [Sinister (2012)], in case you live under a rock; the character had worked in that film’s Ellison Oswalt case) and this time around he arrived at the aforementioned location with a mission to destroy it, because an antique ham radio (antiques are a theme here, as the female lead works in restoration of these things, although she’s only telling us so and we never see her in professional action) came to his attention (its original owner was the disappeared Professor Jonas from the first film) and its recordings of young kids’ voices connect it to the franchise’s main attraction demon Bughuul (stuntman Nicholas King, also returning from the first film, and getting closer to becoming a new Kane Hodder). If that is not enough, Dylan is also visited by a gang of ghost kids led by Milo (Lucas Jade Zumann) that share with him the projection of a few snuff movies on 8mm (these segments were actually shot on 16mm, but they pass for 8mm) accompanied with some vinyl music. How on earth young kids would know how to work with this technology now that their lives without physical media prevent them from even using a CD player is beyond logic, but then again, these are ghost kids. The snuff films themselves are quite interesting, one of them has a family eaten alive by crocodiles, another one has a family buried in the snow, another one has a family electrocuted, and two more are just featuring plain torture [old movies is another theme here, and we even get glimpses of Night Of The Living Dead (1968)]. This grotesque imagery may look shocking to young audiences today, but we grew up with Joe D'Amato’s Emanuelle In America (1977) and we do know better.


As you may have already guessed from the synopsis above, this is more of a family drama rather than a horror film, and it is a great one at that; it is a good movie, just not a scary one. The screenplay (penned again by returning writers C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson) is cleverly devised and convincing. One good example is when So & So tried to keep the family in the house, because tradition has the families dying after leaving the cursed houses, he did so by using a fake legal excuse in regards to the kids’ custody. It is a logical way to keep the family confined to the house (to build suspense and scares) and still look like you have a reasonable script on your hands. If you survive the boring start, you will be rewarded with some very interesting dreamy imagery too [courtesy of cinematographer Amy Vincent {Black Snake Moan (2006)}]. Other than that, the casting is pitch-perfect, but the moment of greatness came with the visually compelling end credits.


Shot in six weeks in Chicago, this was produced by Jason Blum and Scott Derrickson, on a $10 million budget and it grossed $52.9 million. It was directed by Ciarán Foy on the strength of Citadel (2012) in which he also had to work with kids.


The Black Phone (2021)

The Black Phone


Set in 1978 Denver (and with plenty of references to the era’s drive-in horror hits), when a masked assailant called The Grabber (Ethan Hawke, in a career-defining role, even as he takes his mask of only for the finale) abducts young kids and leaves behind a trail of black balloons as his signature. His latest victim, Finney (Mason Thames) is locked in a seedy basement with the titular non-working black phone attached to a wall that will become a catalyst to the story. In the meanwhile, Finney’s sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) has dreams that may help the police with the investigation, much to the annoyance of their abusive father (Jeremy Davies) – a subplot that doesn’t add much to the proceedings.


Based on the same-titled short story by Joe Hill, and directed by the master of current horror Scott Derrickson (who also penned the screenplay, with C. Robert Cargill – the two of them also produced, with Jason Blum for Blumhouse Productions), this stunning motion picture creates an uncomfortable environment – not only due to the sensitive subject matter of the abduction of minors, but also to the violence among kids that it frequently depicts – and blends footage, reality, and expectations with such artistry that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the end result one of the finest horror films of the last ten years. Made on a modest $18 million budget (after its director departed a Marvel production), it premiered at the Fantastic Fest, before receiving a theatrical release from Universal Pictures, and it went on to gross a glorious $161 million, resulting in discussions of a sequel.

Get books, comics, graphic novels and more at Use the code CHC at checkout for 15% off your purchase!

Follow Cinema Head Cheese:
Facebook: /cinemaheadcheese
Twitter: @CinHeadCheese
Instagram: abnormalpodcast 
Pinterest: /abnormalpodcast/cinema-head-cheese/
RSS Feed:

You can support Cinema Head Cheese and Abnormal Entertainment on our Support Us page.

No comments:

Post a Comment