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The Black Phone ending explained: Does The Grabber die?

Ethan Hawke plays a crazed masked villain in the new film from Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson.

The Black Phone
Published: Wednesday, 22nd June 2022 at 5:40 pm
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Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has returned to his roots as a horror filmmaker for his new film The Black Phone – which is adapted from a short story of the same name written by Stephen King's son Joe Hill.


The film sees Ethan Hawke take on a rather uncharacteristic role as a crazed masked villain called The Grabber – "a paedophile sadist serial killer who abducts a child" as Derrickson put it to – and also includes some brilliant performances from child actors Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw.

Thames stars as Finney, a young boy who becomes the latest victim of The Grabber, while McGraw plays his sister Gwen, whose cryptic dreams may hold the answer to putting a stop to the villain.

The film ends with an incredibly tense showdown after some supernatural interference – and if you need a little more help unpacking those events, we've provided a handy explanation below.

Read on to have The Black Phone ending explained.

The Black Phone ending explained

After Finney is kidnapped by The Grabber, he is taken to his basement which is almost entirely empty bar for a mysterious black phone on the wall, one which appears to be disconnected from any telephone lines.

The Grabber claims he has heard the phone ring before but only faintly – but almost as soon as Finney is alone he begins to regularly hear it ringing. What's more, the people on the other end of the line are former prisoners of The Grabber, all of whom begin to give him advice as to how to escape his fate.

Meanwhile, detectives looking into the case have begun questioning a man named Max, who seems to be something of a conspiracy theorist and is doing his own investigation into the missing children. It soon emerges that Max is none other than The Grabber's brother, who is currently staying with him but is completely unaware of his villainy.

Eventually, Finney receives a phone call from Robin – a friend of his who had previously been kidnapped by The Grabber. His advice is that Finney should fill the phone's receiver with dirt and use it as a weapon.

All this time, Finney's sister Gwen has been having dreams which seem to hold the key to the basement's whereabouts, and after she eventually cracks the code she rushes to the police and gives them an address that she believes corresponds to The Grabber's home.

Max, meanwhile, has also managed to work out that the kids have been in his brother's house – and visits the basement where he is shocked to find Finney. Alas, he doesn't have much time to help, as The Grabber soon arrives on the scene and instantly kills his brother via the rather vicious method of an axe to the head.

He then goes after Finney, but using all the advice that has been passed on to him by the previous victims, Finney is able to trip The Grabber and beat him with the phone – which then proceeds to ring one final time.

This time all the previous victims are on the other end of the line, and together they taunt their former captor just before Finney snaps his neck and kills him.

The police and Gwen then arrive on the scene and Finney completes his escape, reunited with his sister and their father – who had previously appeared to be an abusive figure and now apologises for his wrongdoing.

The film ends with Finney returning to school, where he no longer seems to be a target of the bullies who had previously made his life a misery.

If you're after an explanation for the supernatural components of the story, Derrickson explained in an exclusive interview with that audiences shouldn't think too hard about how the previous victims were able to contact Finney.

"That's my feeling about supernatural films in general," he said. "It was even my feeling about Dr. Strange in a lot of ways, you know, dealing with magic I just think that once you're breaking the barrier of naturalism and moving into the paranormal or in supernaturalism, the audience will buy what you show them.

"The only rules I'm interested in explaining are rules that they need to know to follow the story, but in my experience, for the most part, they're not asking for any detailed explanation for how anything is possible, or what the rules are, unless they're going to be lost without knowing them.

"And part of the power I think of paranormal storytelling and dealing with the mystical and the magical, and all of that, is letting it be mysterious, letting it be something that feels even in the context of the story itself like it's got mystery to it, like there's more to it than you can really understand."

The Black Phone is in cinemas now. Visit our Movies hub for the latest news and features, or find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide.


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