Scott Derrickson Gets Back To Mid-Budget Horror With Joe Hill Story

The director of Sinister and Doctor Strange will adapt a Hill tale called ‘The Black Phone.’

Benedict Cumberbatch and Scott Derrickson on the set of Doctor Strange
Photo: Marvel

Director Scott Derrickson will adapt a Joe Hill short story called “The Black Phone” into a feature film for Blumhouse, according to Deadline. Derrickson is penning the screenplay with his regular writing partner, C. Robert Cargill, with whom he also wrote Sinister and Doctor Strange.

The story was initially published in Hill’s first book, a 2005 short story collection called 20th Century Ghosts that put the young author on the horror map before it was widely known that he was the son of Stephen King. The tale follows the plight of John Finney, a young boy kidnapped and held prisoner in the basement of a serial killer, who begins to communicate with his previous victims via a broken old phone.

For Derrickson, the project signifies a return to his moderate budget horror roots and to Blumhouse, with whom he teamed on 2012’s Sinister. The filmmaker directed his first film, the direct-to-video sequel Hellraiser: Inferno, in 2000, and followed that with the 2005 hit The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which grossed $145 million worldwide on a $19 million budget.

After helming a 2008 remake of the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, Derrickson went back to the supernatural with Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke as a true crime novelist who grapples with a family-murdering pagan deity. The $3 million movie earned nearly $88 million and led to a sequel, Sinister 2, which Derrickson did not direct but co-wrote with Cargill.

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Following 2014’s Deliver Us from Evil, based on the allegedly true exploits of a cop and a priest battling demons in New York City, Derrickson leaped into the superhero pool with 2017’s Doctor Strange, bringing Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme to life in an origin story that raked in $678 million worldwide. Derrickson initially signed up to helm the sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but parted ways with Marvel last year over creative differences.

Derrickson also directed the original pilot for TNT’s Snowpiercer TV series, which was extensively reshot during the show’s long development phase. Derrickson declined to return for the reshoots due to creative differences with the showrunner over the series’ direction.

The director has been linked over the years to large-scale projects like an adaptation of the classic Dan Simmons novel Hyperion and a reboot of the sci-fi anthology series The Outer Limits, but seems to find the most success in the horror genre. He’s also been recently attached to a Labyrinth sequel and a thriller called Bermuda set in the Bermuda Triangle.

As for The Black Phone, Derrickson’s writing partner Cargill tweeted that the story is “short and we did a lot of additional writing, but if you want to stay pure we do stick pretty close.” Mason Thames (Apple TV+’s For All Mankind) and Madeleine McGraw (Toy Story 4) will star in the film.