SPOILER ALERT! The following article contains major spoilers for Mr. Harrigan's Phone. If you have not yet seen the new Netflix movie, continue at your own risk!
Being a faithful adaptation of Stephen King's novella of the same name, John Lee Hancock's Mr. Harrigan's Phone keeps one element of the plot an open ended question. While it's clear that Donald Sutherland's Mr. Harrigan is attacking people from beyond the grave on the behalf of Jaeden Martell's Craig, what's never directly explained is the meaning behind the mysterious texts that the protagonist receives from the dead man. It's purposefully left open for interpretation by King and the filmmaker – but the writer has now provided his two cents on what Harrigan is trying to say.
Yesterday, Stephen King posted a message to his Twitter followers asking for their read on what Mr. Harrigan's text messages mean, and in a follow-up Tweet he said that he would be revealing his own thoughts today. Keeping to his word, King posted his take on what the eponymous character is trying to say:
Messages from Mr. Harrigan's haunted phone...and remember, this is just my interpretation; I was never 100% sure.CCCx=Love from Mr. HarriganCCC aa= It hurts, it hurts (as in "Aahhh!")CCC sT=Craig, stop (almost everyone agrees; I do, too)October 12, 2022
Stephen King's interpretation of the third text message matches up with Craig's own read in the ending of Mr. Harrigan's Phone, but his thoughts on the other two are fascinating because of how they impact our interpretation of "CCC sT" as "stop."
If "CCCx" is an expression of affection, then Mr. Harrigan telling Craig to stop feels like it could be a suggestion that is for the teenager's own benefit. If "CCC aa" is Harrigan communicating pain caused to him by doing Craig's violent bidding, however, then one wonders if the request comes from the hope to end his own suffering and be left in peace.
Regardless of the implications of this explanation, by far the best thing about Stephen King's Tweet is his unwillingness to say "this is officially what the text messages mean," despite the fact that he's the one who wrote the novella that has been faithfully adapted for Netflix (opens in new tab). If King wanted his Constant Readers to know exactly what the texts mean he probably would have included that information in the prose. He purposefully left the question unresolved because he wants people to think about it, and in that atmosphere there are no wrong answers.
Should you care to rewatch Mr. Harrigan's Phone to deepen your own analysis and take on the film, it is now available to watch with a Netflix subscription. If you wish to go back to the source material, the novella is included in the omnibus If It Bleeds (opens in new tab), which was published in 2020.
For more about Stephen King, you can learn about the full history of big and small screen adaptations via my weekly Adapting Stephen King column, and learn about all of the projects that are in the works via our regularly updated Upcoming Stephen King Movies and TV feature.
NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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