Is The Black Phone Based on a True Story?

Published Categorized as Movies
Is the black phone a true story
Is the black phone a true story

We often watch various kinds of movies involving a kidnapper and a victim. Either they struggle with each other for freedom or fall in love (happy ending!). But what if someone is abducted by a masked demon and instructed by ghosts on how to escape? A thriller with the element of supernatural phenomena. Weird but exciting, isn’t it? The Black Phone is one such story of a 13-year-old boy named Finney who is abducted along with his other classmates by a masked serial child abductor nicknamed “The Grabber”. But is The Black Phone a true story?

The Black Phone premiered at the Fantastic Fest on September 25, 2021. It is an extended version of Joe Hill’s short story of the same name. In this article, we will go through the movie and have some knowledge back and forth. This will let us understand the director Scott Derrickson’s creativity with the source material. Let’s just look at this 2021 American coming-of-age supernatural horror film and find out the answer to our question, if The Black Phone a true story or just a work of fiction?

About Black Phone

The Black Phone is a 2021 supernatural horror film by the director Scott Derrickson. It was co-written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. Jason Blum is its producer. It is based on short stories by Joe Hill written in 2004. The film was reviewed positively by critics. It grossed over $157 million worldwide. 

The Star Cast

The movie Black Phone stars Mason Thames as Finney, a young teenager captured by The Grabber. Madeleine McGraw plays his psychic dreamer sister, Gwen. Jeremy Davies plays their abusive alcoholic father, Terrence. 

Is The Black Phone a true story?
Mason Thames (from left), Madeleine McGraw, Tristan Pravong, Ethan Hawke, Miguel Cazarez Mora, and Brady Hepner

James Ransone as Max is the Grabber’s eccentric brother. Ethan Hawke is The Grabber, a psychotic child kidnapper and serial killer. Other important stars include E. Roger Mitchell (Detective Wright), Troy Rudeseal (Detective Miller), and Miguel Cazarez Mora as Robin, Finney’s friend and one of the victims of the Grabber

The Plot

The story is set in a suburb town of Denver, in the year 1978, where a serial child abductor nicknamed “The Grabber” is on the loose. Finney and Gwen Blake are siblings living in the same town with their abusive and alcoholic father. Finney and Robin are good friends. His sister Gwen is a psychic dreamer. 

Once, The Grabber abducts Finney’s known friend from the other school, Bruce. Gwen learns Bruce’s kidnapping details in her dreams. Detectives Wright and Miller interview her but believe her only when Robin and Finney get abducted too. 

Finney wakes up in a soundproofed basement with a black rotary phone on its wall. But despite the Grabber saying it does not work, the phone rings when he leaves. Finney picks it up and finds Bruce (ghost!) on the other side of the phone. And from here begins Finney’s adventure of escaping the captive of the Grabber with the help of other of his past victims (or the ghosts).

Is The Black Phone a true story?
Stills from The Black Phone

In the meantime, Max discovers Finney is being held in his basement but is unaware that the masked Grabber is his own brother he lives with. The Grabber kills him with an axe while he is rescuing Finney. Gwen discovers the property of the Grabber and reaches there with detectives, only to find the buried bodies of the Grabber’s victims.

Meanwhile, the Grabber attacks Finney with the axe, but he kills The Grabber instead by snapping his neck backward using the phone cord. He escapes by combining all the escaping methods he was told by his callers. Finney and his family reunite happily.

Is Black Phone based on a true story?

The Black Phone is a believable story when it’s only about a plain abduction. But when it involves the supernatural element, it becomes difficult to believe the existence of such incidents in real life. The short stories of Joe Hill, son of horror writer Stephen King, inspired the movie The Black Phone.

But for making it into a full-fledged movie, director Derrickson used his childhood stories and experiences as a source. Bully stories, an abusive father, and neighborhood life are all Derrickson’s part of the story. Even the masked Grabber is his idea. But Joe’s work of co-relating serial kidnappings with supernatural phenomena is what impressed him the most. 

Hence, The Black Phone is not based on a true story but on real-life incidents of its makers, especially the director Scott Derrickson.

Below is the link to The Black Phone trailer.

READ MORE: Is Hidden Figures a True Story?

About The Author

  • Aanchal Shaw

    Hey! Aanchal here. Most of the days you will find me covering listicles on American TV Series and movies, Korean dramas and anime content. An engineer in making, I live in the City of Joy. Love to travel and explore new places. You can reach out to me at