Movie #84 2022: Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022)

At this point, are there even any Stephen King novels left to adapt into movies? Apparently so. There won’t be many who have even heard of Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (I certainly hadn’t), but almost everyone on the planet knows at least one of The Shining, It, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, Carrie or The Green Mile, right? It’s true that he’s probably one of the most famous horror writers of all time, so there’s no wonder that everyone wants to get their hands on the rights on his work.

But why haven’t you heard of Mr. Harrigan’s Phone? Well, there may be two reasons. Firstly, this story isn’t actually in novel form at all; it’s a story from If It Bleeds, which is a novella filled with short stories by Mr. King. Secondly, it was only released in 2020, making it easily the newest source material for any sort of TV or film adaptation. To put it briefly, the film follows young Craig (Jaeden Martell), who befriends a frail billionaire named Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland). When Mr. Harrigan dies, he becomes increasingly spooked as he begins to receive texts and phone calls from Mr. Harrigan’s phone, which was buried with him.

It’s a simplistic story, yes, but what’s with all the hate here? I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this, if even some of the reviews surrounding it are quite poor.

Admittedly, the first half of the film is much stronger than the second. Albeit landing more in the cutesy, light drama category across the first fifty minutes, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone did end up being really quite touching and a delight to witness. Strangely, it was when the actual horror elements started to creep in that it began to drag just a bit too much. Weird, since King is known specifically for his horror prowess.

Whilst Stephen King is undoubtedly one of the of all time, it is clear this scriptwriter and director is not. Since he was adapting Mr. Harrigan from a short story, you’d think he’d have resisted making it too long, alas John Lee Hancock overcomplicates a simple premise that becomes quite tedious after the 60th minute. Incidentally, that’s also around the time the brilliant Donald Sutherland performs in his last scene. Coincidence? I think not. 

What is well done however is that it’s obvious that the budget here wasn’t exactly astronomical, but that never makes it feel tacky or unfinished. Though – as my wife pointed out – the sets are way too obviously just that, it never distracts from the sequences that matter the most.

One of my only other grievances is that I was not at all impressed by the actor playing Young Craig, but Jaeden Martell more than makes up for it when he does turn up. There’s nothing hugely memorable going on, but it was enjoyable enough for sure. This is a true rainy day movie.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is currently available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

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