Mr. Harrigan's Phone Reviews Are Online, See What Critics Are Saying About The New Stephen King Netflix Movie

Jaeden Martell in Mr. Harrigan's Phone.
(Image credit: Netflix)

October is officially upon us, which means horror movie fans have every excuse to hunker down in front of their screens, big and small, to indulge in this year’s creepiest offerings. Among the new releases coming to Netflix in October is Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, an adaptation of a Stephen King novella, that’s set for release October 5 on the streaming site. The horror flick features some veteran Stephen King stars in Jaeden Martell (IT and IT: Chapter Two) and Donald Sutherland (2004’s Salem’s Lot miniseries), and the reviews are in to give the critics’ opinions on the film, whose trailer does look pretty haunting.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone tells the story of Craig (Jaeden Martell), who gives his elderly friend Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland) a cellphone, and after the old man dies, spooky things start to happen with the titular technology. It’s usually a good sign when the author gives his stamp of approval, and Stephen King seems incredibly happy with this rendering, so let’s see if the critics agree. We’ll start with CinemaBlend’s review of Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, with Eric Eisenberg giving it just 2 stars out of 5. He says the story that works as a novella struggles in its translation to the screen: 

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone isn’t actually one of King’s more cinematic stories, and the lack of action taken to fix that fact has problematic results. Namely, it’s a dull and lagging feature that tries to be both a coming-of-age drama and a supernatural horror film, and it ends up failing to make an emotional impact with either genre.

Allison DeGrushe of Distractify rates the film 2.5 out of 5 stars, praising Spanish composer Javier Navarrete for the film’s score. As far as the story itself, however, the critic calls the movie boring and says there are little to no scares. More from the review: 

When it comes to the big reveal, it’s not surprising at all; in fact, it’s quite anticlimactic. After the suspenseful build-up around Mr. Harrigan's posthumous influence over the living world, the film’s dull conclusion is a complete letdown. There is no expected plot twist; therefore, we're left to drown in pure disappointment.

Frank Scheck of THR agrees that Mr. Harrigan’s Phone just isn’t very scary, and says this is the rare Stephen King story that gets less interesting as the horror grows. In the critic’s words: 

The recent horror film hit The Black Phone trafficked in similar ideas, but in far more terrifying fashion. Hancock simply doesn’t seem very interested in mining the concept for its chilling aspects, which, to be fair, weren’t particularly well developed in King’s novella either. Instead, the film mainly comes across as a contemplative portrait of an unlikely friendship and a coming-of-age story in which a young man learns the perils of getting what you wish for.

Meagan Navarro of Bloody Disgusting rates the film 2.5 skulls out of 5, saying the two halves of the movie don’t come together as neatly as they need to, and the film struggles once it loses Donald Sutherland. According to the critic: 

Donald Sutherland winds up serving as the glue that holds this feature together. The tenured actor plays well off Martell, and both succeed in instilling emotional investment in the oddball friendship. There’s an inherent sweetness to that bond between the reclusive billionaire and lost little boy, but Sutherland balances that genuine affection with underlying cruelty. That portrayal sets up the entire back half as Mr. Harrigan imparts supernatural lessons of vindictiveness. But without Sutherland’s gravitas, [director John Lee Hancock] struggles to convey the terrors of karma or the double-edged sword of technology. A strong start tapers off into a quiet and uneven morality fable that’s ultimately too vague to make an impact.

Chris Evangelista of SlashFilm rates the film slightly above average, at 6.5 out of 10, noting that while the movie lacks jump scares and CGI ghouls, the horror is more likely to hit in the dark of night after the movie ends. This critic appreciates the loyalty shown to Stephen King’s text but says director John Lee Hancock isn’t able to create the necessary fear or tension. As others indicated, this critic thinks Donald Sutherland is the highlight of this adaptation, saying: 

But while Craig as a character is too weakly drawn, [Martell] does a fine job playing up the character's increasing fear. The real highlight, though, is Sutherland. While his part is small, the actor, now in his Lion in Winter phase, shows up to remind us he's still got it. With just a slight smile and a twinkle in his eye, Sutherland is able to make Mr. Harrigan seem mischievous, warm, and dangerous all at once. It's a stellar little performance, and I wanted more of it.

If you want to check out Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, the movie will be available to stream via Netflix subscription on Wednesday, October 5. In the meantime, check on the status of other upcoming Stephen King movies and series. Fans of the famed author won’t want to miss our weekly Adapting Stephen King column, which publishes every Wednesday, featuring the full history of the author's books that have been made into movies and television. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.