In the picture

October 23, 2022

Slow pacing and a dearth of scares make Mr. Harrigan’s Phone a lacklustre watch.

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Mr. Harrigan's Phone☆☆

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Jaeden Martell, Joe Tippett, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste

Directed by: John Lee Hancock


t is starting to feel like Hollywood is under the impression that everything Stephen King has ever written must be turned into a movie; whether the material is suitable for a full-length feature or not does not seem to factor into the equation. If Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is anything to go by, they might want to rethink that strategy!

The new Netflix horror flick is based on a Stephen King novella, and therein lies part of the problem: the story just isn’t long or intricate enough to sustain an hour and a half of drama. The other problem is that it’s all rather dull.

The film tells the tale of a boy named Craig (played by Colin O’Brien as a child and Jaeden Martell as a teenager) who is hired by a retired recluse, the titular Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland), to read to him a few times a week. The two end up developing an unlikely bond, with the elderly billionaire introducing the lad to literary classics and the youngster enticing the aging luddite to embrace the smartphone.

When Mr. Harrigan eventually passes away, Craig puts his late friend’s iPhone in his coffin before burial. Things takes a creepy turn after a frustrated Craig leaves a voicemail on the deceased man’s mobile and starts receiving cryptic communication in return.

But the thing is … that turn could have been considerably creepier.

There are several intriguing ideas at the centre of this yarn, but what starts with promise soon fizzles into a whole lot of nothing. A slow, plodding build-up leads to an unsatisfying conclusion in this odd mishmash of coming-of-age drama and supernatural horror. The story is in need of a cunning twist that never arrives. The mystery aspects are weak, the scares are conspicuously absent.

Sutherland delivers a solid performance and adds poignancy to the proceedings, and Martell is fine in his role even if his character doesn’t have the depth or growth to be particularly compelling. But even the performances can’t rescue the proceedings from falling into snooze-inducing territory.

All in all, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone just goes to show that not all Stephen King writings make good source material for big screen adaptations. The story is too thin, its lesson too heavy handed and hackneyed. While there is a touching, poignant quality to the tale, the horror elements simply don’t work, there is no thrill on offer here, and the movie ultimately just leaves you with the sense that there is so much more that could have been done with the basic ideas at the film’s core.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

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