Universal and Blumhouse are currently developing a sequel to The Black Phone – and we’re trying to figure out how that would work.
Director Scott Derrickson’s adaptation of the Joe Hill short story The Black Phone was well-received by critics and the general audience alike. 83% of the reviews listed on Rotten Tomatoes are positive, and more importantly it earned over $161 million at the box office on a budget that was just under $20 million. The Black Phone doesn’t lend itself to being sequelized, the story stands on its own and is wrapped up by the time the end credits start rolling… but when something is as successful as this movie was, that opens the sequel door. And at CinemaCon last month, The Black Phone producer Jason Blum (founder of Blumhouse Productions) confirmed that they’re planning to make a follow-up. So now we have to take a moment to ponder… The Black Phone 2: Could a sequel work?
Before we get started, a reminder of what The Black Phone was all about. Mason Thames starred as Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, who is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. And they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney. Madeleine McGraw had a memorable role as Finney’s sister Gwen, who has psychic visions in her dreams (just like their mom did), and Ethan Hawke played the mask-wearing child killer known as The Grabber.
With The Grabber having been defeated, the most appealing option for a sequel to The Black Phone would be one that follows up with Finney and Gwen a few years after the events of the first film and sees them getting mixed up in some other kind of horrific situation – maybe even one they’re led into by Gwen’s psychic abilities. She could have psychic dreams about someone who needs help, and when she and her brother try to provide that assistance, they find that their lives are in danger as well. The scenario would be up to the screenwriters to figure out, but this approach would give viewers the chance to see Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw play Finney and Gwen again, and that alone would be enough to make a sequel worthwhile.
Here’s a less appealing option, and one we’d be more likely to see if Universal Pictures were to decide to turn The Black Phone into a direct-to-video franchise. Which is certainly a possibility, as Universal loves to pump out direct-to-video sequels. (Look up the Tremors, Bring It On, Dragonheart, American Pie, Scorpion King, Death Race, and chucky franchises for proof.) The anthology approach would introduce a whole new cast of characters. No Finney or Gwen, no Grabber. Instead, we’d follow other people who find themselves in a life-or-death situation and get help from beyond, just like Finney getting his supernatural phone calls while he was stuck in The Grabber’s basement. We could get a whole series of “Black Phone“Movies that are only connected to each other by the set-up of spirits helping people out of a bad spot. Perhaps that would be a welcome alternative a simpler version that would strictly be seen as The Black Phone 2.
The Grabber was such a memorable villain, both in look (wearing his multi-piece mask that was designed by FX legend Tom Savini) and performance (Ethan Hawke is awesome), would Universal and Blumhouse want to leave him out of a sequel? They could try to build this guy up into a new horror icon… and it might seem in poor taste to make someone who abducts and murders children an icon, but that’s exactly what Freddy Krueger did before he became a dream stalker. To bring The Grabber back as a flesh and blood character, they’d have to make a prequel. Which would probably turn out to be a really dark and depressing movie, because there’s no way to get around it having a downer ending where The Grabber gets away with his crimes.
Speaking of Freddy… Another way to bring The Grabber back and try to build him into a horror icon would be to turn him into a supernatural being who continues messing with children from beyond the grave. He could target a new batch of victims, or the idea of a supernatural Grabber could be mixed with the idea of focusing on Finney and Gwen. Maybe his evil spirit is still lingering around the siblings. Maybe they have to find a way to vanquish him, or maybe he just appears to them in their dreams and visions while they deal with a different situation. Either way, it’s difficult to imagine this approach working out in the long run, because it doesn’t seem like “Play a Horror Icon in Multiple Sequels” would be on Ethan Hawke’s To Do list. If they make The Black Phone 2don’t expect him to be in it.
Do you have any ideas for how a sequel to The Black Phone could work? Let us know by leaving a comment below.