Mr. Harrigan's Phone Director Tried To Emulate This Classic Horror Film For His Stephen King Adaptation [Exclusive]

Netflix has an interesting project out today called "Mr. Harrigan's Phone," an adaptation of a recent Stephen King novella of the same name starring at least one King-on-film vet, Jaeden Martell, who played the young Bill Denbrough in "It." The story follows a young man who befriends a cantankerous and eccentric old man (played by the always great Donald Sutherland) and helps introduce the old codger to the wonders of a brand new technology: the iPhone. He's resistant to the fancy gadget at first, but comes around to it, especially when he realizes he can get real-time stock information on it.

The rich old guy has a mysterious past and while he might hate every other human in the world, he bonds with this boy in such a deep way that when he passes, it's a major blow to the lad. 

The boy tucks Mr. Harrigan's phone into the casket before he's buried, a token of their friendship, and still calls it from time to time just hear his old friend's voice. As you can imagine, this being a Stephen King story and all, those calls don't always go unanswered, and the boy soon realizes that he's still able to communicate with his old mentor.

Things spiral out of control, people die, and maybe that mean old corpse has something to do with it. It's an outlandish premise that could get very B-movie very quickly if not handled correctly, so when director John Lee Hancock came on to this adaptation he called on a very specific and iconic horror movie for inspiration.

Finding horror in the ordinary

In an interview with our own Jeff Ewing, Hancock said the most important thing for him to do with this story was ground it in a recognizable reality, so naturally he turned to Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" to see what tricks that filmmaker used to ground that likewise outlandish story:

"We [also] talked a lot about, for instance, 'Rosemary's Baby,' which is an ordinary story. I mean ordinary in a great way. It's a seemingly ordinary world until she has Satan's baby, there's that, but everything about it, the way it was shot, was so beautifully done that sometimes it would just be a little off. A little too low. 'Why are we that low?' And it just creates an uneasiness which we were trying to emulate."

In essence, Hancock studied the pacing of that film and tried to emulate that for this story. A nice slow build in a recognizable world that would allow the horror elements to really hit differently than a more stylized and fast-paced horror story. 

"Mr. Harrigan's Phone" dropped today on Netflix, and if you want to read the original short story, that can be found in King's "If It Bleeds," alongside three other chilling tales, two of which have already been bought up to be adapted. "The Life of Chuck" is being developed by Darren Aronofsky, and "Rat" is being developed by Ben Stiller.