20th Century Studios is hoping plenty of viewers will be creeped out by The Boogeyman on June 2nd. The PG-13 horror pic is based on a half century old short story by Stephen King with Rob Savage directing. Cast members include Sophie Thatcher (no relation that I’m aware of), Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, and David Dastmalchian.
Budgeted at just over $40 million, this was originally slated for a streaming premiere on Hulu. Encouraging test screenings changed the plan and now it’s being unveiled in approximately 3000 venues.
This genre has seen its share of successes as of late. There are two comps from 2022 that seem appropriate. The Black Phone was a summer release with some similar themes and based on a novel by King’s son Joe Hill. It started off with $23.6 million. Last fall’s Smile is similar in the sense that it was supposed to roll out on Paramount+ and the pattern was altered due to its positive audience scores. A $22.6 million debut was the result.
The Rotten Tomatoes score is 64%. While under the 83% of Phone and 79% from Smile, that’s just fine to keep the buzz decent. I can’t find a compelling reason why this wouldn’t hit the mid to high teens or low 20s as well.
The Boogeyman opening weekend prediction: $17.7 million
For my Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse prediction, click here:
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is the second best Blumhouse Production this year with a phone featured prominently in the plot and adapted from a work by Stephen King or someone in his immediate family. That might be praiseworthy if there were ten, but there’s just The Black Phone (stemming from a story by Stephen’s son Joe Hill) and this one from Dad.
In 2003, young Craig (Colin O’Brien) loses his mother and leads a lonely life in Maine with his father (Joe Tippett). The grieving is broken up when the wealthiest man in the state Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland) gives him a job. Craig travels to his mansion three times a week to read thick novels to the elderly listener whose eyesight is weak – from Crime and Punishment to Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Heart of Darkness. These classic tales hold more meaning for Craig as five years pass and he grows into Jaeden Martell (from a far stronger King adaptation It). So does his friendship with Harrigan as they both are seeking meaningful companionship.
By 2008, a bad apple threatens to poison the bond. That would be Apple’s iPhone. The new device is all the rage and Craig eventually convinces his dad to get him one. This game of telephone continues when the teenager gifts one to his billionaire reading club compadre. The once uninterrupted reading sessions are briefly disrupted by the device’s easy ability to distract.
It takes an unnecessarily long time to reach this point, but (spoiler alert?) Harrigan dies (something revealed in the trailer). Craig makes the seemingly kind gesture of placing the departed’s Steve Jobs application in the casket. Saved under his contacts as The Pirate King (would’ve been a better title than this extremely generic one), Craig soon discovers a potentially supernatural connection with his late friend.
Phone comes from John Lee Hancock, whose biggest hits have been inspirational sports dramas like The Rookie and The Blind Side. This could’ve used a lot more pep as this is a frequently drab affair. There were creepier consistencies in his last picture The Little Things, which I found far more recommendable than this. In fact, this is about as frightening as The Rookie or The Blind Side.
Sutherland and Martell are of no fault. Their chemistry makes the first half or so far more tolerable. The film’s concept probably better fit the short story format that the legendary author framed it in. When Harrigan is buried, this becomes a ho hum revenge saga with a boring high school bully (Cyrus Arnold) and then a kindly teacher (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) who is wronged. It also stumbles with its attempts to say something about our overuse of technology.
Despite the chemistry of the two leads, the screenplay from Hancock is a disservice to them. I took the novel approach with Mr. Harrigan’s Phone – meaning reading one by King or one of the ones Craig recites would have been a wiser use of my minutes.
Joe Hill inherited his father Stephen King’s ability to blend the scary and supernatural with everyday adolescent fears. The Black Phone, based on Hill’s short story, takes place in 1978 when Mr. King was writing his masterpieces. 13-year-old Finney (Mason Thames) and his foul mouthed and tough cookie little sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) have their Daddy issues. Played by Jeremy Davies, Terrence is a widower who drinks himself to sleep and can turn aggressive on a dime. He seems haunted by his wife’s death. She had dreams that were psychic visions. These abilities are inherited by Gwen and Terrence wants her to avoid mom’s nightmarish end. Father and daughter have an abusive encounter where McGraw’s utterly convincing terror provides the scariest scene in a film about a child serial killer.
That serial killer is The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), who masquerades as a magician. In the Denver suburb where the action takes place, the villain has snatched five young boys already. Finney becomes the sixth. Captive in a dank basement, a disconnected black phone is mounted on the wall. The Grabber claims it doesn’t work, but it operates as a mouthpiece for past victims. Between the rotary device and Gwen’s insights, Finney hopes to escape with those methods of assistance.
The source material was a brisk 30 pages and The Black Phone does sometime struggle with the considerable expansion. You’re best off not thinking about logic too much. This is a fairly simple concept greatly accentuated by two very effective performances by Thames and McGraw. Hawke, who starred in director Scott Derrickson’s satisfying Sinister, provides some creepy support but it’s the kids who bring the most shine to this dark material. This filmmaker knows how to generate suspense and he gets the combination of paranormal and horrific activities right enough of the time.
After helming critically appreciated genre titles The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister (as well as the first Doctor Strange), Scott Derrickson is back in the horror lane this weekend with The Black Phone. Based on a short story by Joe Hill, the supernatural tale began garnering solid buzz when it premiered at Fantastic Fest last fall. Ethan Hawke is the most recognizable name in a cast that includes Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, and James Ransone.
Scary movies always face an uphill battle for awards attention. Despite its 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, I don’t foresee Phone dialing up a Best Picture nod. On the other hand, particular acclaim has been afforded to its young costars Thames and McGraw. In order for them to grab any buzz in the supporting fields, the film’s box office reception would need to be fantastic. While I’ve got it performing well, I am not envisioning it reaching that kind of level. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
After ringing up lots of positive reception last fall at Fantastic Fest, the supernatural horror pic The Black Phone arrives in theaters June 24th. Based on a short story by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), Scott Derrickson directs. His biggest blockbuster is 2016’s Doctor Strange, but he’s a veteran of the genre including helming The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. His lead from the latter – Ethan Hawke – stars as a serial killer. Costars include Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, and James Ransone.
In September 2021, Phone garnered serious buzz at the Austin fest. While some reviewers nitpicked pacing issues, the Rotten Tomatoes score is 100% with particular praise for its young performers Thames and McGraw. With a reported budget of under $20 million, this should be another profitable venture for Blumhouse. That production company is used to turning a tidy profit for many of their titles.
During the COVID era, frightening tales were generally immune from negative box office effects. I would look for Phone to earn its price tag back during the first weekend.
The Black Phone opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million