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Character page for Scott Derrickson's The Black Phone.

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    The Grabber 

"The Grabber"
"Hang up the phone, now."

Portrayed By: Ethan Hawke

A mysterious serial killer and child abductor behind several disappearances of young boys. He is the one Finney is trying to escape from.

  • Agony of the Feet: Ankle, but close enough. Finney manages to trick the Grabber into following him into a pit, wherein the Grabber's ankle twists on a pile of debris Finney set for just that purpose. While that's not enough to stop him, it does allow Finney to remove the Grabber's mask, and incapacitate him long enough to deliver a Neck Snap.
  • Asshole Victim: Not a single person shed tears for him when Finney killed him at the end.
  • Ax-Crazy: Routinely abducts, starves and kills young boys. He's also extremely sadistic and violent. The Grabber's dialogue also implies he may have the same gifts as Gwen and Finney, since as a child he heard the phone ring too but never wanted to believe it was real, which doesn't do wonders for his mental state.
  • Berserk Button: Knocking away or taking off his mask will cause him to go ballistic.
  • Big Bad: The film's main antagonist, responsible for Finney's kidnapping and the main obstacle in his way of escape.
  • Cain and Abel: The Cain to Max's Abel.
  • Calling Card: He leaves a handful of black balloons at the location of all his abductions. It's when Gwen mentions having a dream about them does this get the attention of the two detectives, solidifying their trust in her prophetic visions and inevitably leading to the location of the home where he buries his victims.
  • Defiant to the End: Zigzagged. After Finney traps him in the broken floorboards and beats the shit out of him, the Grabber, seemingly aware he's been outdone, just laughs manically and mockingly in his face, until Finney manages to knock off his mask, upon which he Screams Like a Little Girl and tries to cover his face.
  • Dirty Coward: He goes exclusively after young boys who he has a considerable physical advantage over and reacts very poorly when faced with an actual threat.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Played with. What's under the mask is really nothing special; the Grabber just looks like an ordinary man. But removing that mask makes the Grabber have a Freak Out, allow Finney to get the drop on him and deliver a Neck Snap.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Downplayed, but he shows regret for having to kill his brother, despite admitting what a useless idiot he was.
    The Grabber: He was an idiot. But he was my idiot.
  • Evil Is Hammy: He's very theatrical and expressive when under his mask. Ethan Hawke was clearly enjoying himself immensely.
  • Eye Scream: His modus operandi for subduing his victims involves spraying wasp spray in their mouths and eyes to temporarily blind them as well as stop them from crying out.
  • Fatal Flaw: His sadism. He could easily just kill the boys he abducts right away but he can't resist breaking them mentally first and playing his sadistic games, giving Finney the time he needs to fight back against him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He presents himself in a congenial manner when talking to Finney, but it's all an act to put his victims in a false sense of security.
  • For the Evulz: Due to him enjoying playing sadistic games with his victims, the Grabber's motivation primarily is to derive sick kicks from their predicament before killing them.
  • Hate Sink: A psychotic sadist who murders teenage boys for funsies. Not much there to love, yeah?
  • Logical Weakness: He's a terrifying Serial Killer but still an ordinary human and needs to sleep like everyone else. When he tries to stay awake for several nights in a row observing Finney, his endurance fades and he starts falling asleep involuntarily.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Whenever he talks to his victims, he wears a series of demonic-looking masks to hide his identity. He reacts very negatively when Finney snatches it off his head, to the point that he's so freaked out by the loss of said mask that it allows Finney to deliver a Neck Snap while the Grabber is distracted.
  • Monster Clown: While he claims to be a magician, he has all the hallmarks of a killer clown. He likes to dress in a garish suit and promises to show his victims a "magic trick" when he abducts them, his Calling Card includes a hand-full of balloons, he sees his ritualistic murders as a "game" he's playing with them and his mask has interchangeable expressions that give him a Slasher Smile and a Sad Clown frown.
  • Mysterious Past: He implies he was locked in the basement and heard the black phone ringing when he was young, but beyond that, nothing of his past is ever revealed.
  • Never My Fault: Blames Finney for making him kill Max when it really happened because Max discovered Finney in the basement.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: His real name is never stated, "The Grabber" being his only given identification, which is what the news media had dubbed him. That said, his name in the original short story was revealed to be Al.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: When he first abducts Finney, he has moments of acting childishly before revealing himself to be truly vicious. He also reacts the way a spoilt child would whenever Finney gets the better of him and even blames him for the terrible things he does throughout the film, such as having to kill his brother or keeping him imprisoned when he was considering setting him free.
  • Satanic Archetype: He lures in his victims with a facade of a vulnerable, charismatic eccentric, only to kidnap and torment them for his own amusement, from then on keeping up a Faux Affably Evil demeanor to disarm his victims. His entire "schtick" is to tempt his victims into taking a suspiciously easy escape and then brutally punishing them for it until he tortures them to death. He has a big black dog that can be analogous to a Hellhound keeping the "souls" in his care from escaping. Even his mask has devilish qualities, including a pair of horns and a Slasher Smile. Notably, Gwen equates her prophetic dreams to Jesus' handiwork, and it's through those dreams does she find the house where his previous victims are buried.
  • Serial Killer: Abducts young boys and often starves them before gradually lulling them into false security. He would then intentionally leave the door open and attacks the boys in a sadistic game of "Naughty Boy." After beating them to death, he then takes their bodies over to the other house to bury them. And if they're really naughty, the weapons come out and he makes it count...
  • Sibling Murder: Once Max discovers that Finney is locked up in his basement, he quickly murders his brother with an axe to the head. He does show some remorse for it, just not a lot.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Beneath his mask, he's a perfectly ordinary looking, even somewhat handsome, middle-aged man who you wouldn't think twice about if you passed him on the street.
  • Triple Shifter: Besides his actual (unstated) jobnote , he stays up all night waiting for his victims to attempt to escape the basement. After several nights of Finney not playing along, he starts falling asleep as he waits.
  • Villainous Breakdown: His composure is visibly starting to crumble from the minute his customary routine is disrupted, to the point where he complains to Finney about it. When Finney manages to get his mask off, he completely freaks out.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: A variant. He basically blames Finney for making him kill his brother, even though Max had simply discovered Finney in the basement and started to make the connection that his brother is the Grabber.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Similar to Jame Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs and real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, he lures in his victims by asking them for assistance, acting harmless and nonthreatening. It doesn't last.
  • Would Hurt a Child: He's abducted, abused, and murdered at least five young boys for no other reason than his personal gratification.


Finney Blake
"If you try to touch me, I'll scratch your face. And whoever's coming will see and ask why."

Portrayed By: Mason Thames

  • The Dog Bites Back: After spending the entirety of the plot being held captive by him, Finney finally gets his revenge on the Grabber by bludgeoning him in the head and snapping his neck.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: At the end of the film, one of the other students mentions they "thought he'd be bigger" when hearing about the kid who killed the Grabber.
  • Idiot Ball: As the Grabber was considering releasing him as a reward for not trying to run away (per the Ghost Boys' advice), Finney blows his chance to have the Grabber keep considering that when the Grabber asks for his name. Even after the Grabber ranted on about how he gets all the details about the boys he kidnaps on the newspapers, Finney still chooses to lie about his name and so the Grabber angrily just keeps him in the basement.
  • Improvisational Ingenuity: Initially, Finney assumes everyone abducted before him had tried everything to escape, and doesn't put much effort into his own escape attempts. Once the ghosts start passing on knowledge of what they were able to achieve, he springboards off their ideas and improves on them, using carpets laying around to guide a cable to the window and in the climax he sets up a fairly elaborate trap using what he had on hand and learned.
  • Improvised Weapon: With some help from Robin, he weaponizes the titular Black Phone by ripping off it's receiver, stuffing it full of dirt for heft and uses it as an improvised bludgeoning weapon against the Grabber. He also uses the chord as an improvised garrote when he has the Grabber dead to rights.
  • Took a Level in Badass: With all the ghost boys assisting him, especially Robin encouraging his friend one last time, Finney not only stands up to the Grabber and kills him, but he sits with his crush in class without fear.


Gwendolyn "Gwen" Blake
"Jesus, What the fuck?"

Portrayed By: Madeleine McGraw

  • Corporal Punishment: Gets a very sound spanking from her father, who then orders her not to ice her bottom.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: It's with her father's belt Gwen gets the hard spanking we see.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Gwen's first big scene is of her explaining her psychic dreams to the police and then giving them a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for implying she might have something to do with the Grabber.
  • Little Miss Badass: Throughout the film, despite her small physical stature, she does not hesitate to provide ample demonstrations of this trope: giving a withering profanity-laced response to one of the detectives questioning her when he sort of implies she might have something to do with the Grabber (due to her dreams giving her information not released to the public); splitting open the head of a bully beating up her brother with a rock the size of a baby's head, and fearlessly tracking down the housing unit where the Grabber commits his crimes.
  • Mouthy Kid: Gwen is a smart, observant kid and is willing to tell off adult authority figures for behaving obstructively.
  • Prayer Is a Last Resort: When Finney is kidnapped, she resorts to praying to Jesus in hopes he'll help her (or anyone) find her brother before it's too late. When this seemingly doesn't work, she gives Jesus a piece of her mind.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Gwen swears more than every other character in the movie combined. At one point, she curses out Jesus for what she views as him refusing to help her find Finney.



Portrayed By: James Ransone

The Grabber's drug-addicted brother.

  • Addled Addict: Max is chatty and good-natured but clearly pretty strung-out.
  • Cain and Abel: The Abel to the Grabber's Cain, especially when he gets axed in the head by the latter much like the how one half of the Trope Maker Cain slayed his own brother in the Bible.
  • Dramatic Irony: He's gotten into amateur crime-solving and has put together a whole map of evidence and locations trying to pin down where the Grabber must have his home base using the locations of the Grabber's abductions as data points. All this is happening while he's staying in the Grabber's home, just a few feet above the basement where the killer he's hunting is keeping his current victim.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Zigzagged. While Max is an unemployed, couch-surfing cokehead and his brother is a financially stable fully-employed homeowner who views Max's foibles with weary affection. Said brother is also a serial killer who mainly targets teenage boys, so Max is probably doing better in the long run. Unfortunately for Max he doesn't live long once he finds out about his brother's "activities".
  • He Knows Too Much: The Grabber kills him the moment he discovers Finney in the basement and starts to realize that his own brother is the Grabber. Then the Grabber proceeds to blame Finney for making him kill Max even though Finney did nothing to draw Max's attention.
  • Lovable Coward: The only reason he didn't check his own house (more thoroughly) for Finney and the corpses of other dead boys was because his brother kept ordering him to mind his own business and likely threatened to cut off his cocaine supply.
  • Motor Mouth: Possibly due to cocaine use, possibly due to his general tightly-wound disposition.
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: His brother fiercely ordered him to not snoop around the basement cause there's "nothing" there. Max did hear the commotion outside of Finney trying to run out after getting the bike lock right (but most likely not Finney's screams for help) and tried asking his brother about this but is ignored.
  • NEET: Not that money is his main priority but he's an unemployed cokehead only getting by with his brother's financial support who so happens to be a serial killer.
  • Stimulant Speedtalk: Max has been doing his own coke-fueled amateur investigation of the Grabber child abductions, and babbles off his theories to the cops, who ignore him. It takes him a while, but he's spot on, and is happy to ramble through how he solved the case only to get an axe in the head from his brother, who was the Grabber all along.


Terrance Blake

Portrayed By: Jeremy Davies

Finney and Gwen's alcoholic abusive widowed father who works at the ill-fated Rocky Flats Plant.

  • Abusive Parents: Despite his horrible parenting, he's still the only one Gwen can talk to and seek affection from as they both mourn over Finney's abduction. Once Finney is freed, Terrance vows to change his ways.
  • The Alcoholic: To the point he's so intoxicated by his heavy drinking (likely caused by his deceased wife's passing) he can't stand even the slightest of sounds yet he'll go off screaming like a banshee if irritated.
  • Cop Hater: He seems to really hate the police, and blames Gwen when they came to his workplace to ask him questions about the investigation. This could be a reference to how in real life EPA and FBI agents would raid Rocky Flats Plant in 1989, a decade after the film's events.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Belts Gwen's ass hard for talking about her psychic dreams to the police detectives investigating the missing boys as he's angry about how his deceased wife also had psychic dreams, and lastly orders Gwen not to apply ice.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: He's very much against Gwen spreading "rumors" about her psychic dreams which was passed on to her by her mother.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: He's an absolute child-abuser of a father especially towards Gwen (not that Finney was treated much better, at least verbally) who seemed to care more about the well-being of his precious precious alcoholic beverages than his children. When the Grabber takes Finney from him and Gwen, he breaks down feeling guilt over what if Finney doesn't miss him and becomes much friendlier to Gwen. Once Finney is finally rescued, Terrance asks if they can ever forgive him.

The Ghost Boys

    In General
L-R: Billy, Vance, Robin, Bruce, Griffin
  • Ghost Amnesia: Their memories of their mortal lives tend to be fuzzy at best which does conflict with their attempts to help Finney.
  • Ghostly Goals: Their appearances are scary, but they're definitely the Type A variety with sympathetic motivations rather than being indiscriminately kill-crazy. This doesn't make them harmless, however, and Vance in particular is hungry for revenge.


Bruce Yamada
"Your arm is mint."

Portrayed By: Tristan Pravong

  • Establishing Character Moment: We first meet him as a member of the opposing team during a baseball game, trouncing a dismayed Finney while his teammates chant his name and his parents glow with pride in the stands. When it comes time for the teams to exchange handshakes and "good game"s, Bruce reaches out to Finney personally and is genuinely a good sport. He's cool, popular, and good at sports, but he's not an asshole and it makes his Sacrificial Lamb status especially painful.
  • Lovable Jock: He's the star player of his baseball team and an amiable guy in general.


Robin Arellano

Portrayed By: Miguel Cazarez Mora

  • Book Dumb: He knows plenty about how to fight and patch himself up afterward. He also comes up with a decent (though failed) plan to escape the Grabber and instructs Finney on how to make a makeshift weapon out of the phone receiver and use it. However, he also needs math tutoring from Finney, stating that he'll be suspended if he gets another F.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Both alive and dead, he encourages Finney to stand up to his problems rather than run from confrontation.
  • Declaration of Protection: He warns Finney's bullies that "If you fuck with him, you fuck with me." After his disappearance, they predictably go back to harassing him and beating him up.
  • The Dreaded: Among the schoolkids anyway. Simply walking into the room makes Finney's bullies immediately shut up and step out of his way.
  • Establishing Character Moment: He's introduced beating a much larger boy bloody, setting him up as a good fighter. Which makes it all the more shocking when he disappears, strongly implying that he was no match for the Grabber.
  • Handwraps of Awesome: A variation. Robin doesn't wrap his hands until after the fight, winding tape around his knuckles as makeshift bandages.
  • Nice Guy: Despite being shown to be a kid who's constantly getting into fights and is feared by most kids, he's actually a pretty good kid and is close friends with Finney, even being the most helpful to him after his death and encouraging him to live for him so his death will not be for nothing.
  • The Power of Hate: Of all the ghosts who communicate with Finney, he remembers the most, offers the most encouragement, and wants Finney to defeat the Grabber and escape. It's made pretty clear he's filled with rage towards the Grabber and not only wants Finney to escape because they're friends, but wants Finney to avenge him.
    Robin: I can't kill that hijo de puta. You have to do it for me.


Billy Showalter
"We don't play baseball here."

Portrayed By: Jacob Moran

  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": He doesn't react well to being called by his name, causing Finney to call him "Paperboy".


Griffin Stagg
"You don't have much time."

Portrayed By: Banks Repeta

  • Laughing Mad: Once Griffin kicks off, however, he's pretty chatty and at times veers off into seemingly inappropriate laughter.
  • The Speechless: His ghost has initial difficulty speaking like the others, either due to the trauma of how he died or what was likely the injury that killed him, a visible slit throat.


"Pinball" Vance Hopper
"Welcome to the nightmare end of your pathetic little life!"

Portrayed By: Brady Hepner

  • Always a Bigger Fish: Sure, Vance is a violent, borderline sociopathic bully who honestly could have been the main villain of another movie, but any evils he had pale in comparison to the sadistic, Ax-Crazy, kidnapping, serial killer that is The Grabber.
  • Asshole Victim: At the time of his death, the only one of the Grabber's victims to be this.
  • Berserk Button: He beats up two kids because one of them bumped into a pinball machine he was playing and ruined his chance to beat his high score.
  • The Bully: In life, he was a mean piece of work and Finney admits to having been frightened of him. In death, he's the most disturbed and poltergeist-like out of all the basement ghosts.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Vance tells Finney that after he destroyed the Grabber’s wall trying to escape, the Grabber “took his time” with Vance before he killed him.
  • Defiant to the End: He tried to fight back against his kidnapper and eventual murderer, which only results in his death.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: He beats the hell out of two boys because one of them accidentally ruined his pinball game.
  • The Dreaded: More so than Robin in life to the point his reputation scared Finney.
  • It's All About Me: As Finney thanks him for the advice on how to finally bring down the Grabber, Vance asserts he's only interested in Finney avenging him and couldn't care less about what happens to Finney after the Grabber is offed.
  • Nominal Hero: Unlike the other ghosts, he doesn't care about helping Finney. He helps him like they do because he wants the Grabber to die.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: According to his actor, at the time he was abducted, he tried to fight back.
  • Shout-Out: His physical appearance and general demeanor are very similar to that of Billy Hargrove from Stranger Things, despite the short story predating the series. However, given the series' popularity and the two media's similarities in setting and style, Vance's look is unlikely to be a coincidence.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: He curses more than any other character in the movie, barring Gwen.
  • Sociopathic Hero: His actor describes his character as a sociopath.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Of the Ghost Boys, he's the only unpleasant one.