‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’ is a Mild Scare

Director John Lee Hancock creates a captivating but underwhelming horror tale

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Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” unites modern cell phones with a mysterious ghost story. Photo Credit: Netflix Rating: B-

Lily Gurdison, Multimedia Editor

Set in the rural town of Harlow, Maine, Craig (Jaeden Martel) is a high school senior whose life is plagued with grief. Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland) for years has been paying Craig to read books aloud to him in his extravagant home. One day, Craig decides to purchase Mr. Harrigan an iPhone. First opposed to the idea, the old man refuses, but after a month, becomes consumed by Craig’s gift. Craig walks into Mr. Harrigan’s mansion one afternoon to find him dead in his chair, phone in hand.

Based on the novella by Stephen King, ‘If it Bleeds, this film highlights the interesting topics of grief, justice, and our human attachment to technology. Although Craig is portrayed as a good kid, many unfortunate events take place in his life, causing his grief and injustice to turn him into a killer. Similar to the movie Death Note, Craig holds the power to have anyone he wants killed by Mr. Harrigan’s mysterious and supernatural power.

 Although it is labeled as a horror/drama film, this movie has little to do with scare. Even though there are subtle hints of irony and eeriness in the story, the trailer suggested more of a thriller, leaving me with chills just from the preview. There are no jump scares or events that are too terribly disturbing, which further makes me question how this movie is labeled as horror.

 Even though there was a lack of scare in the story, the overall plot is clever. Each mysterious death is well thought out by the writer and overtime Craig becomes an interesting and unpredictable character. Although the story is easy to follow, it left the viewer with a major loose end concerning Mr. Harrigan. 

Like many other Netflix movies with a teen protagonist, this film also includes the prominent cliche of overbearing phone use by young adults. There were multiple scenes that show a silent cafeteria filled with students on their phones. This is something that we have all seen before in movies and, as a teen, I can testify that this common scenario is simply not true. However, even though the cringe-worthy platitude became old, it provided a good example of how much our society relies on technology for interaction. Craig wouldn’t dare kill someone himself, he instead uses his device to harm others. The writer and director raises the question, how differently do you act when communicating over the phone? 

Overall this is a good choice for those who are not fans of traditional horror films. The storyline keeps the lure of frightening films, but does not include any jump-scares or gripping events that would repel some from watching.