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Mr. Harrigan's Phone

As a Stephen King Constant Reader (IYKYK) I'm always wary of a new King adaption, but MR. HARRIGAN'S PHONE dials up a great cast & a decent connection to creepy suspense.

Jaeden Martell is no stranger to King, having played young Ben in the two superb "It" films. He's very good here again as Craig, a quiet young man whose recently lost his Mom to cancer.

While his father sinks into a quiet but supportive role, a lonely Craig accepts a job reading to the wealthiest man in town, Mr. Harrigan, three times a week after school.

Donald Sutherland is excellent as Harrigan, starting off as a lonely, blunt billionaire looking for someone to read the classics of literature to him. Over the years that the film travels, Craig and Mr. Harrigan break down the walls between them.

Craig learns a great deal about the world from his elderly companion, while dragging him begrudgingly into this century by buying him his first iPhone.

Sutherland and Martell are great together, creating an evolving relationship that feels real. Most of the best dialogue in Writer/Director John Lee Hancock's screenplay is lifted directly from King's short story. In moments, it's near perfect hearing these two spar with King's words.

Harrigan tells Craig that to be successful, he must deal with adversity or bullies harshly. Those words come back to haunt.

The scene in which Mr. H asks Craig to be honest about why he keeps coming back to read to him is the best in the film. Sutherland is powerful.

As Craig nears high school graduation, Mr. Harrigan dies one quiet afternoon before their reading session. The quiet moments when Craig finds him are jarring.

With the phone having been such a special part of their bond, Craig slides it into Mr. Harrigan's suit pocket just before his coffin is closed for the last time.

Craig slips back into his last months of high school, where the relentless bully Kenny Yankovich (Cyrus Arnold) invades Craig's space routinely, bringing off-kilter madness within inches of Craig's face. King fans know that no one paints mean kids or adults quite like King and Kenny is a doozy.

Craig doesn't feel he can confide in his Dad what's happening, so he picks up his phone and calls Mr. Harrigan's number, relating to the answering message what's happened. He remembers those "dealing with adversaries harshly" speeches and wants revenge.

When Kenny is mysteriously taken care of almost immediately, Craig is terrified that he's opening up a direct line to the afterlife and the very dark side of Mr. H's methods for dealing with enemies.

Does it stop Craig from using that lifeline again? Nope.

There are interesting echoes here on grief, lost loved ones and personal responsibility, along with some effectively creepy suspense.

Martell carries the film on his back with ease, but Hancock's efforts to expand the short story into a longer story are hit and miss. I think there's an even better 90 minute horror thriller buried in the hour and 45 minute running time.

Less padding and more gore could have made this a damn fine R-rated horror flick. Producer Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Nip/Tuck) has proven he knows how to deliver the blood and the scares, so I'm not sure why they took the PG-13 route here.

That being said, it's still a worthwhile entry in the King film canon, earning a solid B.

As Craig narrates early in the film: " When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers." Oscar Wilde wrote that. We didn't read that book. Maybe we should have.

Who knew a Tammy Wynette ring tone on an iPhone could be so damn creepy!

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