You can’t just take a fresh King and not film it. This tireless king of literary horror is proving to be a steady supplier of stories for filmmakers, and a film adaptation of one of his four stories, included in the 2020 collection If It Bleeds, was not long in coming and is now available on Netflix. In this review, we tell whether it is worth watching.
“Mr. Herrigan’s Phone” / Mr. Harrigan’s Phone
The genre is a mystical thriller
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Jaden Martell, Donald Sutherland, Joe Tippett, Kirby Havell-Baptiste, Cyrus Arnold
Release year 2022
This story begins in 2003. A modest schoolboy Craig lives with his dad in an average American wilderness called Harlow, located, of course, in the glorious state of Maine. In addition to school, the boy attends the local church and clearly reads biblical messages for the faithful. One day Mr. Herrigan enters there – an old and clearly tired of life billionaire, who decided to hide from the burdens of existence in a noisy metropolis.
This rather frail-looking man offers Craig and his father a small job for the little one, which consists mainly of reading out loud to Herrigan classic world literature three times a week. For this easy task, the boy will receive five bucks an hour and postcards with lottery tickets for the holidays.
A few years pass, the rosy-cheeked boy turns into a slightly gloomy, pale teenager, and his relationship with the rich reclusive pensioner becomes somewhat friendly. While Steve Jobs tries to take over the planet with his new wonder gadget, Craig begs his father for an iPhone and gives Mr. Herrigan the same one because one of the latter’s lottery tickets turns out to be a winner.
Grumpy grandfather is skeptical about the new-fangled watch at first, but when he learns that this little thing with a bitten apple on the body is able to provide the most up-to-date information, he changes his mind. But then a sad day comes, because the protagonist finds his mentor dead, and later, at the funeral, for some reason puts the same gifted iPhone in the inside pocket of the deceased’s jacket. Parubok could not even imagine what this thoughtless act would lead to.
If someone might have thought that this work by John Lee Hancock somehow belongs to the horror genre, because the production was done by the Blumhouse studio (along with Ryan Murphy as a producer), then this is not the case at all. Rather, the story is a mystical thriller flavored with a pinch of teenage psychological coming-of-age drama. As in the original source, the narration is told from the person of young Craig and follows the original text quite closely, changing only minor points.
But, if King no-no, and sometimes allowed himself small jokes, Hancock offers a completely monotonous, gloomy tone of the story, which was often used in the mystical horrors of the zeros, when the main action of the film takes place. However, it all looks as if he had no intention to somehow intrigue. This is an authentically autumnal, sad movie, which, however, refuses to offer any surprises, especially to those viewers who have an idea about the original work.
When the phone of a dead man buried underground begins to answer the messages of a sad Craig, and his school abuser, a fat bully named Kenny Yankovich, dies due to a mysterious accident, these mystical elements are not able to seriously scare or at least cause concern. This happens because, firstly, the viewer who is familiar with cemetery and otherworldly, including King themes, is unlikely to find something new for himself here, and, secondly, the supernatural motif looks too light, minimalistic, that is, which is somewhere on the periphery of the plot.
It is much more interesting to observe the behavior of the main character when he is faced with an important moral choice, but even this line cannot evoke honest empathy. Not because the young actor Jaden Martell, who showed himself well in the adaptation of “It” by the same King, does something wrong, but because his character does not get an interesting development or at least something more than one and a half emotions. The almost episodic Donald Sutherland looks all the better against Jaden’s background – at his venerable 87-year-old age, the maestro feels great in the frame.
“Mr. Herrigan’s Telephone” is a kind of unremarkable otherworldly thriller with a claim to reflect on the influence of information on society in the modern era of digital technologies, dependence on them, as well as on the loss of a loved one and an attempt to come to terms with it. Perhaps an author more adapted to the material would have been able to better transfer this “not terrible” work of the King of Horrors to the screen, but John Lee Hancock released just another mediocre film, which will soon be elementary lost in the endless information flow of the streaming giant.
Pros: a typical mystical story that does not manage to bore or irritate, as always the wonderful Sutherland Cons: genre uncertainty, emotionlessness and lethargy of the narrative Conclusion:
Calling “Mr. Herrigan’s Telephone” a worthless movie would be a no-brainer, but you don’t have to watch it at all, unless you’re a devoted fan of Stephen King’s work and adaptations of his works.