THE BLACK PHONE*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
Denver, CO, 1978 – Kids and parents are gathered for a little league baseball game. Finney Blake (Mason Thames) is pitching, with his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) chewing him on. Finney manages to throw two balls that get strikes, but on the third, another player, Bruce Yamada (Tristan Pravong), hits the ball and scores a home run, letting his team win. Despite the loss, Bruce commends Finney for his arm.
Bruce is later seen riding his bike around town, greeting some girls from school along the way. Then a black van pulls up in front of Bruce, and he stops in his tracks.
Finney and Gwen live with their father (Jeremy Davies), an abusive alcoholic still mourning the loss of his wife and the kids’ mother after she committed suicide. As the siblings start walking to school, they see a crowd of kids gathered as the school bully Moose (J Gaven Wilde) is antagonizing another kid named Robin Arellano (Miguel Cazarez Mora). To everyone’s surprise, Robin is skilled at fighting and dominates Moose, beating his face to a bloody pulp. Finney and Gwen keep walking, with Gwen mentioning a local kidnapped known only as “The Grabber” (Ethan Hawke), since they have learned that Bruce has gone missing.
At school, Finney is bullied by three boys who follow him into the bathroom and call him names. Robin enters and threatens the bullies if they mess with Finney. Robin also encourages Finney to stand up for himself. Meanwhile, two detectives (E Roger Mitchell and Troy Rudeseal) come to the school and speak to Gwen in the principal’s office. Gwen claims she has dreams relating to the missing children taken by The Grabber, but she cannot explain the meaning behind these dreams.
The next day, Finney wakes up to find his father beating Gwen because of the cops visiting his job and asking questions regarding Gwen’s dreams and the correlation between that and Bruce’s disappearance. Gwen breaks her dad’s liquor bottle, and he beats her harder. He orders Gwen to say that her dreams are not real, as her mother had similar dreams that were believed to be premonitions.
Later on, Robin is riding his bike around the neighborhood. He then turns the corner and finds The Grabber waiting for him, holding black balloons (which were also reported as being seen when Bruce went missing).
Parents around the neighborhood are informed about Robin’s disappearance. The bullies at school then go after Finney and start to beat him, but Gwen defends him by whacking one bully over the head with a rock, causing him to bleed a lot. Gwen gets kicked in the face, and the other two bullies continue to beat Finney. Later during class, Finney is paired up with his crush Donna (Rebecca Clarke) as his science partner. She offers sympathies for Finney getting beaten.
Finney splits from Gwen as they walk home, and he encounters The Grabber’s van. He poses as a regular man spilling his groceries, but once Finney spots the black balloons, The Grabber attacks Finney and sprays his mouth with a chemical to knock him out before he’s thrown into the van. Gwen and other kids from school soon learn that Finney is missing.
The Grabber brings Finney to his basement and keeps him prisoner. There is only one window but no way for anyone to hear him if he screams. The Grabber taunts Finney but assures him he’s “special.” On the wall is a black phone that is disconnected, which The Grabber claims to have heard ringing before. Later, the phone rings again, and Finney answers it. He hears the voice of Bruce, who notes Finney’s arm in baseball, calling it “mint”. However, Bruce doesn’t remember his own name or what he did when he was alive. Bruce gives Finney a tip about a space in the floor where he can move a tile and begin digging. Finney spends his time digging and flushing the dirt down the toilet.
Gwen has a dream where she sees a flashback of Bruce’s life from childhood, and his developing interest in baseball. Mr. Blake talks to Gwen, saying that her mother would talk about having dreams that are visions just like Gwen does, and he thinks this drove her to commit suicide, so he wants to prevent Gwen from falling down the same path.
The Grabber brings Finney eggs and a Sprite, assuring him the food is clean. He also leaves the door unlocked, but as Finney walks toward it, he hears the phone ringing again, and he hears the voice of a local paperboy named Billy (Jacob Moran. While talking to Finney, his ghost appears next to him, his face having been slashed by The Grabber. Billy tells Finney that the unlocked door is a trap, and The Grabber will be waiting upstairs for him with a knife. Billy mentions a cable he left in a crack under the wall. Finney grabs a rolled up mat and slides the cable up to the window bars and attempts to climb his way out, but his weight causes the bars to get pulled off, leaving him with no way to get back up. Another flashback/dream shows Billy’s life as a paperboy, delivering with his dog before The Grabber got him.
The detectives go around the neighborhood and speak to a man named Max (James Ransone), who is doing his own investigation into the missing kids. He tells the detectives that he is staying with his brother for the time being. Meanwhile, Gwen tries to take whatever info she can from her dreams to try and find her brother.
The Grabber asks Finney his name, but when he lies about it, he throws Finney a newspaper showing the news of his disappearance. When he leaves, the phone rings again, and Finney speaks to a boy named Griffin (Michael Banks Repeta). His ghost appears floating beside Finney, and Griffin tells him about a lock combination that he had written down. This is part of a game The Grabber likes to play with his victims called “Naughty Boy”. Finney finds the numbers, but Griffin cannot remember the exact combo. While The Grabber is sleeping, Finney sneaks upstairs and tries every combo he can think of until he unlocks the door. Unfortunately, The Grabber’s dog Samson barks at the sound of the unlocking, which wakes up The Grabber. Finney runs out of the house and only makes it barely down the street before The Grabber catches him. Neighbors turn on their lights, but The Grabber threatens to kill Finney right then and there if he makes a sound. He waits until the lights turn off before taking Finney back.
The phone rings again later, but this time, Finney hears the voice of a local punk named Vance Hopper (Brady Hepner). A flashback/dream shows Vance at an arcade where he fought with two kids after one of them messed with his high score. He was arrested shorty after. In the flashback, Gwen finds herself alongside Vance, who is talking to Finney through the police radio, but Finney cannot hear Gwen calling out to him. They end up at a house, where Gwen tries to remember the number. She later rides her bike through the area to find the house and is spooked by the ghosts of The Grabber’s victims.
Finney listens to Vance’s “advice” and finds a space behind the wall where there is a freezer. Finney tries to push through the door as hard as he can, but to no avail. He begins crying, fearing that he will die there. The phone rings one more time, and he answers. It’s Robin, and he remembers both Finney and his own life. He tells Finney that he was always his friend, and that now is the time that he really needs to stand up for himself. Robin tells Finney to practice using the phone as a weapon and to fill the receiver with dirt to add some heft to it.
Gwen contacts the detectives and goes with them to the address she saw in her dreams. While this happens, Max comes to the conclusion that the missing kids are in the house he is staying in – because The Grabber is his brother. He goes to the basement and is shocked to find Finney there. Just as Max attempts to help, The Grabber kills him with an axe to the head. He goes after Finney, but the boy has utilized all the help from the ghost kids at his disposal. He sets up a rug over the hole he dug, using the cable to trip The Grabber and drop him into the hole, where he breaks his ankle after it hits the bars from the window. Finney then begins wailing on The Grabber with the phone, and it rings one last time. Finney forces The Grabber to hear the voices of his victims taunting him over his demise, and Finney snaps his neck. He grabs a steak from the freezer and throws it to Samson to keep him distracted.
The detectives search the house, but find it empty until one officer finds the basement. Instead of finding Finney, the detectives find the bodies of the other five boys buried in the dirt. The house where Finney was being held is across the street. He unlocks the door and steps out into the sun, where Gwen sees him and runs to her brother. The authorities take care of the kids, and they are picked up by their father, who tearfully apologizes to both of them for how he treated them.
Finney returns to school more confident than before. The other kids see him as a legend for killing The Grabber, and the bullies no longer dare to mess with him. He rejoins Donna in science class, but he tells her to call him Finn.
In Denver in the late 70's, a serial killer known as The Grabber kidnaps five boys. The sixth boy, Finney Blake, is kept in his basement and overhears a disconnected phone on the wall ringing. He hears the voices of The Grabber's victims, all of whom give him tips on how to survive and escape. Meanwhile, Finney's sister Gwen attempts to find her brother with the help of her dreams, as she sees visions of real world events.
Finney makes one escape attempt but is quickly caught by The Grabber. Gwen manages to find the address to the house in one of her dreams and leads detectives to the house. The Grabber's brother Max finds out that Finney is being kept in the basement of his house, but The Grabber kills Max before he can free him. Finney utilizes all the assets that the dead kids gave him so he can take on The Grabber. He traps him in a hole that he dug and he uses the phone filled with dirt to beat The Grabber before strangling him and snapping his neck. Finney exits the house and is reunited with Gwen, while the detectives find the bodies of the other kids.
Finney returns to school with more confidence and is viewed as a hero by his classmates for putting an end to The Grabber.