A new film based on a story by Joe Hill is on its way to theaters: The Black Phone, directed by Doctor Strange‘s Scott Derrickson, which follows the plight of a kidnapped boy who’s helped by a serial killer’s prior victims.
The film is set to get a wide release on February 4th, 2022 (it premiered at Austin Texas’s Fantastic Fest in September), and Universal has released its first, extremely creepy trailer for the project today.
Hill originally published the story back in 2004 in The Third Alternative and placed it in his debut collection a year later, 20th Century Ghosts. Set in the 1970s, it follows a boy named John Finney who’s encounters a man named Al with black balloons who tells him that he’s a part-time clown, before throwing him in the van and taking him to an underground room.
That’s where things get weird: There’s a black phone in the room where Finney finds himself, one that Al tells him doesn’t work. But it begins to ring, and he’s connected to some of Al’s prior victims. Meanwhile, Finney’s sister Susannah has some sort of inkling that her brother is nearby.
Derrickson came to the project while working on a sequel to Marvel’s Doctor Strange (which he later departed over creative differences), and co-wrote the movie with screenwriter and novelist C. Robert Cargill.
The trailer showcases much of that story (and it seems like it shows a lot of what to expect in the movie, so be warned), and builds on it a bit: Susannah (now named Gwen in the movie, played by Madeleine McGraw), has been having visions about where her missing brother ended up and works to help guide her father and the police. Meanwhile, Finney (played by Mason Thames), has been locked down in the basement, where he gets more instruction from his kidnapper’s (Ethan Hawke) victims by way of the black phone.
And in February, get a faceful of #TheBlackPhone. It’s beautiful and scary and I love it so much — I can’t wait for it to land in theaters. @scottderrickson & @Massawyrm have made something really remarkable.https://t.co/Z5KSqNl7kZ
— Joe Hill (@joe_hill) October 13, 2021
All in all, it paints a picture of an extremely creepy affair, one that feels a bit like Stephen King’s IT or Netflix’s Stranger Things. The project’s the latest one from Hill’s back catalog: a second season of his comic series Locke & Key is due out in Netflix soon (with a third on the way), and he’s recently had adaptations of his book NOS4A2 and Horns, In The Tall Grass (the novella he co-wrote with his father), as well as a couple of others.