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‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’ review: The Netflix movie gets its message across with a smart Stephen King adaptation


Add “Mr. Harrigan’s Telephone” to the relatively short list of actually good Stephen King variations, garnishing a coming-of-age story with understated hints of the supernatural and considerate rumination about cellphones that finds true horror of their ubiquity. Amid a month of Halloween-tinged choices, it is likely to be one of many few to share with the youngsters – no less than, earlier than the following time you punish them by taking their cellphone away.

That includes the co-star of one other current King adaptation (“It” star Jaeden Martell) because the teenage protagonist, Craig, the film advantages enormously from 87-year-old Donald Sutherland’s work within the title function, taking part in a reclusive billionaire who pays the lad to come back learn to him a number of instances per week in his sprawling property.

Set about 15 years prior to now, when Craig lastly convinces his widowed dad (Joe Tippett) to interrupt down and get him an early iPhone as he begins highschool – hoping to slot in with the cool youngsters – Craig decides to make use of some Lotto-won money to additionally purchase one for Mr. Harrigan.

The outdated man pooh-poohs the gadget at first, earlier than turning into enamored with it, recognizing not solely its myriad makes use of but in addition its corrosive prospects. In a single extremely amusing ramble, Mr. Harrigan rattles off each horrible factor that the cellphone would possibly unleash, calling it “a gateway drug” for all method of societal ills, together with the dissemination of bogus news.

“All of us have to be very frightened by this gizmo,” he says.

Though there’s, inevitably, a macabre aspect to come back – when Mr. Harrigan dies, and Craig’s cellphone in some way nonetheless appears to be speaking along with his – the center of the film resides in these exchanges, and the bond that varieties between the 2. Confronted with a bully (Cyrus Arnold), Craig sheepishly asks how Mr. Harrigan handled them again within the day, to which he icily responds, “Harshly.”

Written and directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Aspect”), “Mr. Harrigan’s Telephone” displays a stage of restraint not frequently related to the film’s two high-profile producers, Ryan Murphy (“American Horror Story”) and the prolific horror maven Jason Blum. That’s the benefit in approaching the fabric as a drama, the place the horror serves the story with out overwhelming it.

Those that keep in mind will see parallels with a selected “The Twilight Zone” episode, the place a younger boy spoke along with his grandmother from the past, however the underlying warning about iPhones breathes recent air into the idea. (Whether or not the film promotes Apple’s flagship product whereas decrying its results will probably be, to reference one other “Twilight Zone,” within the eye of the beholder.)

The success of “It” helped spur the surge in cinematic starvation, each in motion pictures and tv, for all issues King, however like “The Lifeless Zone,” it’s usually the writer’s much less flamboyant works that make for one of the best variations. Whereas it might simply get misplaced within the Halloween noise, this good “Telephone” deserves an enthusiastic reception, with a message that comes by way of loud and clear.

“Mr. Harrigan’s Telephone” premieres October 5 on Netflix.

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