Attention! This article contains spoilers for the Black Phone.
The Grabber mask in a Black Phone has a deeper meaning than it might seem at first glance. Played by Ethan Hawke in a role completely different from his standard fare, Grabber is a terrifying new addition to the canon of horror villains. Although his mask seems to bear some resemblance to other horror masked villains, there is something about the way he uses it that sets the Grabber apart from his contemporaries.
During the “Black Phone”, it turns out that the Grabber took six victims, hiding them in his soundproof basement and participating in a kind of gaming ritual in which he tries to force his victims to behave “disobedient” in order to justify his violence against them. Throughout this ritual, he changes the appearance of his mask, since it has a replaceable lower part. Sometimes the Hawk’s Grabber wears it with a wide and anxious grimace, sometimes with a deep frown, and sometimes it is completely empty and empty. The grabber even prefers sometimes to wear only the upper part of the mask, allowing you to see his facial expression, or, in a key scene, only the lower part, freezing the lower part of the face in a grin, furiously threatening the main character of the film Finney.
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Unlike many villains in the horror genre who use their masks to hide their identity, the Grabber from the “Black Phone” breaks the rule of horror, and sometimes he can be seen without part of the mask or without it. Thus, although his mask is important to his personality, it does not exist to hide it from others. Instead, the Grabber uses the mask as a kind of theater: its different variations represent different characters in the show that he arranges for himself and his victims. Several scenes in the Black Phone suggest another motivation behind his mask: he uses it to hide from himself out of shame for his actions.
The black phone is supposedly dedicated to the sins of the Grabber, haunting him in the form of the ghosts of his previous victims. It is clear that the Grabber hears the Black Phone and simply ignores the calls, demonstrating awareness of his guilt, shame for what he has done and unwillingness to stop. Later it turned out that he has a second house across the street from where he lives, where he gets rid of his victims. The fact that he hides the boys’ bodies in the basement of another house suggests such a deep shame that he cannot even live in the same place with the corpses of his victims.
That his mask is used more to hide the Grabber’s own shame than his identity is clearly shown during his last confrontation with Finney at the end of “Black Phone”. Stuck in a hole that Finney dug and struggling to fight the 13-year-old, the Grabber seems to start getting the upper hand again until Finney exposes him. He panics, covers his face and screams, allowing Finney to wrap the cord of the Black Phone around his neck, using it to break his neck. At that moment, Finney saw both the upper and lower parts of his face, and also saw him completely exposed when the Grabber kidnapped him. His panic at being exposed shows that the mask is not really being worn for Finney, but for himself.
With the exception of his MO, little is known about the Grabber. The fact that he is just a human being, and not some supernatural monster, gives the “Black Phone” a reality that enhances his horror. That he’s sophisticated enough to apparently feel shame and pursue his crimes is a big part of what makes “Black Phone” such a fresh take on the horror genre.