4k Movie, Streaming, Blu-Ray Disc, and Home Theater Product Reviews & News | High Def Digest
Film & TV All News Blu-Ray Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders 4K Ultra HD Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders Gear Reviews News Home Theater 101 Best Gear Film & TV
Ultra HD : Skip It
Ranking:
Sale Price: $24.99 Last Price: $27.98 Buy now! 3rd Party 16.06 In Stock
Release Date: October 3rd, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2022

The Black Phone - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

Ethan Hawke throws away the leading man charm for a chilling murderous turn in Scott Derrickson’s The Black Phone. The film is still a chilling creepy horror flick that's perfect for the cold Fall season. Now Universal Home Entertainment issues its own domestic 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and it’s not a release to answer the call. Limited by a frustratingly dark HDR10-only transfer, a decent but not earth-shattering Atmos mix, and the same set of extras, simply put there’s a much better disc out there if you’re willing to import. If you have no desire to import, stick with the Blu-ray. Skip It

The phone is dead. And it's ringing.

Director Scott Derrickson returns to his terror roots and partners again with the foremost brand in the genre, Blumhouse, with a new horror thriller.

Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, 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.

Starring four-time Oscar® nominee Ethan Hawke in the most terrifying role of his career and introducing Mason Thames in his first ever film role, The Black Phone is produced, directed, and co-written by Scott Derrickson, the writer-director of Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Marvel's Doctor Strange.

The film's screenplay is by Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill (Doctor Strange, Sinister franchise), based on the award-winning short story by Joe Hill from his New York Times bestseller 20th Century Ghosts. The film is produced by Derrickson & Cargill's Crooked Highway and presented by Universal and Blumhouse. Jason Blum, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill are producers on the film, which is executive produced by Ryan Turek and Christopher H. Warner.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • Feature commentary by producer/co-writer/director Scott Derrickson
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Ethan Hawke's Evil Turn
  • Answering the Call: Behind the Scenes of The Black Phone
  • Devil in the Design
  • Super 8 Set
  • "Shadowprowler" - a short film by Scott Derrickson
  • Optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature

OVERALL:
Skip It
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital
Video Resolution/Codec:
HDR10/Dolby Vision HDR
Length:
103
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.39:1
Audio Formats:
English: Dolby Atmos
Release Date:
October 3rd, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

From our The Black Phone Blu-ray Review

In a small northern suburb of Denver, Colorado, children are going missing. The cops and the press call the kidnapper “the Grabber.” No one sees anything. No one hears anything. The kids just vanish with a black balloon left at the scene. With the news on T.V. and the papers, it’s impossible for Finney and his younger sister Gwen not to notice the stories. When Finney is grabbed by a man in a black van with black balloons, he’s imprisoned in a soundproof basement… with a disconnected black phone mounted on the wall. Only when the phone rings it isn’t help on the line, it’s the souls of The Grabber’s victims.

While the average moviegoer may know Scott Derrickson for his efforts with Doctor Strange, horror is where he got his start with the underappreciated director-to-video Hellraiser: Inferno, and bigger entries like Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. He also helmed the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still - but I won’t hold that against him. Large or small budget, Derrickson has a knack for building terror and suspense while pulling great performances from his cast. The Black Phone is no exception in that department. 

Where The Black Phone succeeds best is with its cast. At the top of the pack is Ethan Hawke as the masked Grabber. He may not have the most screentime, but he instantly makes an impression - even through a mask designed by the legendary Tom Savini. Mason Thames does a tremendous job as Finney carrying a lot of the emotional and physical load of the film. Madeleine McGraw holds her own as the bratty foul-mouthed sister. James Ransone turns in another energetic performance as the hapless Max. Last but not least, we have a small but great turn from Jeremy Davies who somehow always knows how to steal a scene. 

Given the familial relationship, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Joe Hill’s story feels very much like a stripped-down version of It. Keeping the supernatural elements to a minimum, the story is lean and tight and to the point. Placing the story in the 1970s removes a lot of technological “what-ifery” from the equation. No cell phones. No internet. The rumors and stories of the Grabber circulate by word-of-mouth until he becomes a creepy legend. It also removes the ever-so-lame “track the device” cliche from the pair of detectives featured in the film. It explains just enough to set the stage and let you become invested with the story before getting out of the way to let the creepiness do its work. 

Where I have a slight issue with The Black Phone it’s with the ending. Not that the solution is a problem, the film sets it up perfectly peppering the clues bit by bit. The issue I had was how abrupt it was. All of a sudden we’re into the film’s end game and it all moves so quickly it’s over before you had a chance to really blink. It’s a small gripe in the scheme of things but it’s the one I’ve got. I can see some folks getting nitpicky with the premise and a few areas here and there, but overall I really enjoyed this chiller little thriller.  

All around, The Black Phone was a better horror film than expected, and certainly better than what the trailers were pitching to the target audience. I can see how this wasn’t exactly an easy film to market and distill down to a 2-minute trailer without giving away the whole show. Even with some familiarity with the original short story, this adaptation still managed to put a suspenseful lump in my throat. Again, that’s largely because Ethan Hawke is just so damn scary. He’s on quite the run these days picking very interesting and dynamic roles. Not to suggest he never did, but his output lately has been fire. Even through a mask he delivers a creepy and disturbing performance and quite honestly makes The Black Phone that much stronger.  

Our The Black Phone Turbine 4K UHD SteelBook Review

Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 
The Black Phone rings up a domestic two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set from Universal. Pressed on a BD-66 disc for the 4K and a BD-50 for the previously released 1080p disc, the discs are housed in a simple two-disc case without slipcover. The disc loads to a basic main menu with standard navigation features. All bonus features are on the 4K disc.

Video Review

Ranking:

Here we are once again taking the call for The Black Phone - this time with Universal’s own 2160p HDR10-only transfer. And I hate to say it, but it’s a frustratingly anemic one at that. As I mentioned in the Turbine review, the problem with this HDR grade that also affected the streaming Dolby Vision transfer is it's just frustratingly dim to the point that even bright daylight scenes look like late twilight without any warmth or natural coloring to follow. As it was explained to me by the folks at Turbine, the master they received and thus likely the one used here had max nits of 75… 4000 nits is the ceiling. So to start things off, the master is barely using a fraction of its capability. Now this film always had an intended look to it. It’s dark, browns, yellows, and oranges are prominent colors, and it takes place in the fall so it’s supposed to be a cold dark looking film - but you’re also supposed to see it and enjoy it too. Dark scenes in the Grabber’s basement are really dark now and drown out a lot of fine detail often to the point you can't see background objects or the ghosts. There are moments for the brightest scenes that look pretty good, but if you’re watching this in daylight hours, you must have a dark room to appreciate it fully. What Turbine did was go in there and readjusted the grade to compensate for the shortcomings because left to its own devices, the Blu-ray simply looks better. To that end, this isn’t the absolute worst 4K HDR transfer I’ve come across, but it’s very underwhelming. If you don’t intend to import, stick with the SDR 1080p disc.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Turbine 4K

Universal 4K

Now to make things a little muddier, this 4K disc comes in with its own Dolby Atmos track, but it doesn’t sound like the same Atmos mix Turbine used either. Unlike the video transfer, this one is still pretty damn good though. The differences are fairly small when you catalog them, namely, I felt the Turbine Atmos was a little louder and had a stronger LFE response fo more oomph in the subs for heavy music and effects beats. But they are very similar enough to say this is still a good track on its own. Better than the DTS 7.1 mix on the Blu-ray, it has solid LFE of its own and the surround/height placement and immersion are very good. Dialog is clean and clear without issue. This Atmos track genuinely has a lot going for it and would have been great on its own if the video transfer here was better. 

Special Features

Ranking:

Turbine 4K

Universal 4K

And like the previously reviewed Blu-ray and Turbine’s 4K, it comes with the same set of extra features… minus the German trailer of course. So you’re not missing out on that side.

  • Audio Commentary featuring Co-writer/Director Scott Derrickson
  • Deleted Scenes (Two Scenes HD 1:21)
  • Ethan Hawke’s Evil Turn (HD 4:25)
  • Answering the Call: Behind the Scenes of The Black Phone (HD 10:41)
  • Devil in the Design (HD 5:15)
  • Super 8 Set (HD 1:48)
  • Shadowprowler - Short Film (HD 11:57)

Turbine 4K

Universal 4K

 

Going into this 4K UHD review of The Black Phone I was worried that it would be the compromised transfer that’s been floating around streaming retailers, and sadly that’s the case. Only now it's HDR10-only without Dolby Vision. It’s not altogether the worst ever, but the 1080p disc included in this set is much nicer, and then it doesn’t hold up to the work Turbine put in for their disc. While it has a nice Atmos mix of its own and the same set of extras, the choice is easy. If you really need The Black Phone on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the better product is out there, you just have to import it. With that in mind, I just can’t recommend this one. Skip It

If you're going to import The Black Phone, here are your choices -