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What does the ending of ‘The Black Phone’ mean?

If you’ve already seen Scott Derrickson’s horror film, then you might be wondering what happened to Finney and The Grabber.

This year, Ethan Hawke debuted as the villain in The Black Telephone, the film by the director of the Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose saga, Scott Derrickson. The first installment of Sinister is considered one of the most terrifying films in cinema (at least that’s what a scientific experiment in which the film came in first place yielded), and there we saw Hawke as a tormented family man and writer. Now he is a serial killer with a mask designed by Tom Savini that will soon be part of the collective imagination at the level of Ghostface, Hannibal Lecter, and The Purge.

In The Black Phone, which is based on a short story by Stephen King’s son Joe Hill, we meet Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), a 13-year-old boy who faces the horrors of family violence and bullying. Adding to those dangers is a new threat: a kidnapper and murderer known as “The Grabber.” When Finney finds himself locked in a cell in his basement, he begins receiving calls from other victims on a mysterious black phone. Meanwhile, his younger sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) uses her psychic abilities to find out where he was taken.

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If you’re reading this, we assume you’ve already seen the movie (or that spoilers don’t bother you). From this point on, we are going to discuss the ending of The Black Phone and its meaning.

The ending of The Black Phone

The kidnapper murders his brother when the latter discovers that he has a child locked in a secret cell in the basement. By then, Finney has already put into practice all the advice the ghosts of the murdered children gave him: he cut a hole in the floor, set traps, learned to throw punches in a coordinated manner, and memorized the password to a bicycle lock. At the same time, Gwen received enough dream messages to locate the house where her brother is being held captive.

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The killer is determined to kill Finney with an ax, but he does everything the other kids told him to do, including knocking him down and hitting him with a phone full of dirt. The abductor’s face is exposed and Finney takes the opportunity to strangle him and break his neck. But did he really kill him? Is the threat over? Is Finney really free when he runs out of the house where he was being held?

The ending of The Black Phone goes beyond the victory of good over evil. Before the kidnapper locked him up intending to kill him, Finney witnessed other forms of violence: that of abusive adults, such as his alcoholic father’s violence against him and his sister, as well as that of bullies who threatened him in and out of school. When he finally had to face the danger, he did so through the voice of other dead children: they did not succeed, but they gave him all the tools to confront the killer.

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Finney and Gwen’s father find them at the end, visibly remorseful for having tried to suppress his daughter’s dreams, literally. It was the visions he inherited from his mother that helped the police find Finney alive and the bodies of the other five dead kids turn up. Unlike other Derrickson endings, the resolution of The Black Phone is a lesson that the weak and “helpless” sometimes do win when they work as a team and stand up to evil, even if it means coming back from the dead.

Story originally published in Cultura Colectiva

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