MR. HARRIGAN'S PHONE (NETFLIX) (2022)
SYNOPSIS: A boy and an aging billionaire bond over books — and their first iPhones. But when the older man passes, their mysterious connection refuses to die.
As a fan of Stephen King’s short stories, it’s heartening to know that Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is adapted to the screen at such lightning speed consider the novella was published only in 2020. Instead of yet another tiresome remake of Carrie, Firestarter or Pet Sematary, this is definitely a breath of fresh air.
A boy named Craig (Jaeden Martell) who stays with his widowed father in a small town is hired by an eccentric billionaire Mr John Harrigan (Donald Sutherland) to read to him thrice a week. It’s a simple job all right and Craig develops a somewhat close, quiet relationship with Mr. Harrigan over the years despite earning only a meagre sum and lottery scratch cards from the aging billionaire.
The duo mainly talk about life, books and discusses Craig’s future until one day, Craig won a sum of $3000 from one of Harrigan’s scratch cards. To repay the old man’s kind deed, Craig blessed him with the newly launched iPhone and taught him the tricks of accessing the stock market, navigating the internet and choosing his preferred ringtone.
Expectedly, Mr. Harrigan dies one day from heart disease and Craig bizarrely slips Harrigan’s handphone into the casket. When Craig encounters a bully in high school and “confides” the incident in a voicemail to Harrigan’s number, the bully turned up death the next day. Could it be the ghost of Harrigan that served out the justice? Or is it a mere eerie coincidence?
If you have read the short story, you will realised writer and director John Lee Hancock stays faithful to King’s work right down to the ending. There’s little altering to the original story in fact there’s hardly any, so no unwanted surprises for fans of King. Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks), a newcomer to the horror genre pulls no cheap jump scares and gruesomeness for the record. What Hancock is good at is telling heart-warming stories filled with strong characters. Craig and Mr. Harrigan are great examples of that.
Non-readers might find the entire movie a disappointing affair with not much of a solid payoff. The pacing is sluggish and of course, no clear, obvious explanation of the supernatural happenings. To a certain extent, King has weaved technology into some of his horrifying tales notably Cell. In Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, King once again attempts to disguise the evils of technology advancement into the horror scene.
Again, the movie from Blumhouse and renowned producer Ryan Murphy is not as flashy or scary as other King’s cinematic adaptations. This is closer in spirit to Apt Pupil, just less intrigued. Lower your expectations and we are sure you will find it’s a decent well-acted tale about morality and the perils of technology.
Review by Linus Tee