This is a modest scale movie adaptation of a short story (from the stories found in novella If It Bleeds) written by arguably the most successful supernational / horror fiction author Stephen King. But somethings less is more as evident here. Despite the simple story, no special effects, and a minimum of gore and violence, this film manages to capture the viewer’s attention, at least for me, for the duration of its length.
What worked really well here is the chemistry of its two key characters, the reclusive billionaire Mr Harrigan, and Craig, the young boy whom he engages to read for him twice a week over a period of many years. This is thanks in part to an interesting script that is matured and rich, and largely to the excellent performance by Donald Sutherland and Jaeden Martell. The best film adaptation of King’s stories always have interesting multi-faceted characters. What Mr Harrigan’s Phone lack is perhaps a more compelling story. As it is, it has a pretty predictable plot with no real surprises at the end. Nevertheless, the richness in the way the characters develop over the years provide enough solid entertainment. I liked the references it made to several famous novels as the young Craig reads them to Mr Harrigan.
The time period in which the story developed here is also important as it takes place during the emergence of the smart phone usage. Perhaps the scariest thing about the movie is how the smart phone technology managed to take over the lives and behavior of the masses, effectively creating a society of zombies addicted to their handphones. The foresight that Mr Harrigan had over the effect of the technology after being just introduced to its functions was a great debate of the good and evils of the device. Since the iPhone was the handphone of choice for the characters, the film at times almost played like a not too subtle advertisement for Apple iPhones. But then again, one might argue that the phone did not necessarily meet with a happy ending, so it ends up being a balanced representation.
Mr Harrigan’s Phone may not make you jump in fright and unlikely to give you sleepless nights, but it is an engrossing piece of fiction with enough supernatural element to make it interesting. A decent Stephen King adaptation.