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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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: He kills his brother, Max, with an axe after the latter discovers Finney locked up in the basement.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 setting up a fairly elaborate trap with the materials at hand.
  • Took a Level in Badass: With all the ghost boys assisting them, 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
  • 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: Max is an unemployed, couch-surfing cokehead, while his brother is a financially stable fully-employed homeowner who views Max's foibles with weary affection. Said brother is also a serial killer, so Max is probably doing better in the long run.
  • Motor Mouth: Possibly due to cocaine use, possibly due to his general tightly-wound disposition.

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.
  • Teens Are Short: Perhaps justified in that they're all young teens at most.


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 Someone Better: Or in this film’s case, someone worse. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: He's openly delighted as Finney beats the shit out of the Grabber for all he's done.
  • 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.