Mr. Harrigan’s Phone Disappoints Horror Fans

Film Adaptation of Stephen King Novel Lacks Horror Elements

Ashley Drury, Sandscript Author

Out of all the successful Stephen King stories to choose from, this was not it. From the collection of It Bleeds, Netflix came out with a new horror film Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, on September 28. The movie stars Jaeden Martell as Craig and Donald Sutherland as Mr. Harrigan. Directed by John Lee Hancock, and with a rating of PG-13, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is classified and was advertised as a horror movie, but for some reason, I couldn’t seem to find any elements of the horror genre, except for a creepy ringtone for a dead person’s contact. 


The movie follows the main protagonist, Craig, who is paid to read to a billionaire at a young age. It follows their relationship into Craig’s high school years where he still continues to read to Mr. Harrigan as well as form a close relationship with him. Following the start of high school, Craig has some interference from a well-known bully at his school named Kenny. Craig goes on to receive an iPhone for Christmas because all the popular kids have it, and also receives a winning lottery ticket. He goes on to use that money and purchase a phone for Mr. Harrigan himself. After convincing Mr. Harrigan to like it, his plan backfires as Mr. Harrigan begins to point out the flaws and addiction that cell phones create. Later, the well for seen death of Mr. Harrigan happens and Craig had the brilliant idea of slipping his phone into his casket. 


Craig starts to receive texts from the dead, and eventually calls his number. Craig complains about the bully to the Pirate King’s, Mr. Harrigan, voicemail. Then the next day the bully ends up dead, and Craig is upset, feeling like he caused the death. The movie continues with how Craig goes on with his life and eventually goes to college where he receives a call from home. The call informs him of an accident involving his favorite teacher, which causes Craig to spiral. When he finds out the driver who caused the accident gets away with a slap on the wrist he calls the Pirate King’s number and tells him he wants this guy dead. When the driver dies the next day Craig gets upset again, and throws the phone into a river. 


The plot and the way this movie was spaced out were terrible. Not only did it take more than half of the movie for the tiniest bit of “horror” to present itself, but the movie also felt like it had so many unnecessary scenes altogether. It was incredibly boring waiting for something interesting to happen in the plot, along with simply watching a teenage boy bond with an older man whom he met through church. The movie felt uneventful and should have to be classified as a mystery or drama because as a horror fan I was disappointed in this film.


 The theme of this movie was one of anti-technology, but not in a good way where robots are taking over, but more so in a way where phones are the enemy. They reassured the theme of phones owning people and that you must cut it off (referencing the phone) as it will own you. Even though it was the main character who slipped the phone into Mr. Harrigan’s casket, it was still his fault when he called asking to have the driver dead. It made no sense because Craig had suspensions of his call originally killing the bully, and then regretted it.

When this happened he realized that even terrible people still have people who love and care about them. But Craig then continued to go and call and then got upset that it worked leaving the driver dead. It just felt like Craig was blaming the phone for the murder he asked for.


The acting performances were mediocre and no one stood out. I feel like maybe the plot and the writing held them back from showing their fullest potential. There was really nothing in-depth to act out in my opinion. The one scene that could have been a perfect opportunity for this was during the teacher’s funeral when tensions were high. But instead, they limited it to not even a minute, leaving no room for Craig to express his grief so we as an audience understand the build-up of wanting to have the driver dead. Instead, we get this collage of unsatisfactory scenes leading up to the moment.


The movie was an absolute waste of time in my opinion, and I didn’t even find it enjoyable. It wasn’t like a movie where it is cringey but still good, it is just boring. I would never recommend nor put it in the same category as a horror movie, it felt more like a small-town mystery. There were no horrifying plot twists, gore, jump scares or even an eerie vibe which are some elements that I consider to make a horror movie an actual horror movie. This film is not representative of Stephen King and his horror classics, unlike his more successful stories such as The Shining, Pet Cemetery, It, Carrie, and Christine. Overall this movie didn’t meet or even pass my expectations, I don’t recommend this movie.