Filmmaker Scott Derrickson has been pushing boundaries in the world of horror for years, delivering audiences all manner of unsettling imagery, but he recently recalled that there was one sequence in his latest film The Black Phone that saw many requesting be removed. While the film itself does have some disturbing elements that explore elements often found in horror projects, the scene in question was actually an encounter that depicts more real-world horrors that victims suffer through on a daily basis. It was exactly because of this real-world relevance that Derrickson knew it had to be kept in the film. The Black Phone is in theaters now.
WARNING: Minor spoilers for The Black Phone below
Much of the plot of The Black Phone focuses on "The Grabber" (Ethan Hawke) kidnapping children, but early on in the film, we learn that Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) is physically abused by her father (Jeremy Davies). The sequence in question sees Gwen being whipped by her father with a belt.
"There's a line you can cross in dealing with children. I think that probably the riskiest scene I've shot in my career is Gwen getting whipped by her father. That was a scene," Derrickson shared with Bloody Disgusting. "There were some people involved in the movie who asked me to take it out, and I was like, 'The movie won't work without it.' I was adamant. It's there to show the trauma [Gwen and her brother] deal with daily, but also their bond. You feel for them and how they care about each other and have each other's back in that scene. But at the same time, there was a way to do that scene that would turn everyone off."
Horror fans might often take delight in seeing gruesome and shocking violence depicted on screen, but in the case of familial abuse, Derrickson precisely crafted the sequence to get his message across to viewers without being exploitative.
"I picked the location because I knew I wanted not to see the actual whipping. I wanted the audience to feel it more than actually, see it happen," the filmmaker detailed. "The vast majority of that happens behind the counter. You don't see it happening. You feel it more in the performances of Jeremy Davies and his rage and what you hear from Gwen. Then when Gwen stands back up, she doesn't get whipped again. That's the most emotionally harrowing part of the scene. The most upsetting part of the scene, what people think of as the whipping scene, is the second scene when she's not getting whipped, but when he's berating her. God bless Madeleine. Her performance in that scene is so truthful, so raw, and real."
The Black Phone is in theaters now.
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