Why Only Finney and The Grabber Hear the Black Phone Ringing
The Black Phone never reveals why only Finney and The Grabber hear the phone ring, leading to many theories about the supernatural Black Phone’s theme.
Why do only The Grabber and Finney hear the Black Phone ringing in the basement? An adaptation of Joe Hill’s short story, The Black Phone brings the supernatural Black Phone twist to some of the well-worn hostage survival movie tropes. The timely jumps, dark late 70s atmosphere, and climactic reveal never leaves a dull moment and provides enough chill and thrill to be remembered long after the credits begin. The fast-paced story of The Black Phone goes back and forth between then and now. While the current timeline focuses on Finney, a 13-year-old boy, who must race against time and find his way out of the basement of a sadistic serial killer, the past reflects the lives and deaths precedents of the victims.
The film uses the black phone in the basement as a narrative device to drive Finney’s escape plan. Despite being cut off from the wall on which it is leaning, the Black Phone frequently rings and allows Finney to talk to the killer’s previous victims, who are part of the Black Phones’ supernatural character as they are determined to punish The Grabber (played by Ethan Hawke). The black phone played an important role in helping Finney escape. It’s surprising, though, that several moments in The Black Phone’s opening arc suggest that, save for Finney, none of The Grabber’s previous victims heard it ring when they were trapped downstairs. What makes the inner workings of the phone even more confusing is that The Grabber initially claimed the phone hadn’t worked since he was a kid, but later said he too heard it ringing. When Gwen connects to the afterlife through her dreams, Finney does the same through a black phone and talks to the ghosts of The Grabber’s victims.
Is that black phone really ringing?
The ending of The Black Phone connects the dots but never explains why The Grabber can hear the ringtone. That could mean it was just a figment of his and Finney’s imagination. Finney hears the phone ring and uses it as a coping mechanism for his feelings of isolation and hopelessness. In order to make sense of her dire situation and devise an effective escape plan, she may imagine being guided by the spirits of the killer’s deceased victims. This makes even more sense considering the murders have become the talk of the town and Finney already knows the identities of all the victims. Meanwhile, for The Grabber, the ringing of the telephone can be a psychological representation of an underlying sense of guilt for committing the murder. Playing something akin to Mike Flannagan’s Netflix horror show The Haunting, The Black Phone is most likely trying to show The Grabber seeing the figurative ghost of his evil deeds.
While several theories can be drawn to dismiss The Black Phone’s paranormal plot, Gwen’s version of the story asserts that the film is not without Black Phone’s supernatural basis. Not only the black phone, but several other secondary narrative elements in the film are deliberately left ambiguous and open to the viewer’s interpretation. Considering how Stephen King has done something similar in linking otherworldly terrors to the real world, it’s no surprise that Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, was inspired by Stephen King’s brand of horror when he wrote The Black Phone (via SlashFilm).
Supernatural black phone theme can help it go
Even though The Black Phone should never have gotten a second episode, the movie did so well that audiences are making their mouths full of foam for its sequel. However, this posed a problem, as the franchise’s worthy antagonist played by Ethan Hawke (who was partly responsible for the film’s success) died in the end. However, the supernatural theme of The Black Phone that is peppered throughout the film could be Black Phone 2, starring Ethan Hawke. Like Michael Myers and Art the Clown, horror films have proven that previously dead criminals can be resurrected. Drawing on the supernatural elements of the Black Phone, The Black Phone 2 could bring The Grabber back from the dead.
However, the risk of retconning that Grabber is dead is that it will wash away some of the ambiguity the film creates. Another route The Black Phone 2 could take is a prequel focusing on the origins of Grabber and the other ghosts of the Black Phone, as it would bring Ethan Hawke back to life and at the same time not risk lowering the price of the original. Even if not used to bring Grabber back to life in the sequel, The Black Phone’s supernatural elements elevate the film, adding an uncomfortable and healthy ambiguity to an already horrific story.