Films Are Ephemeral: Review on Mr. Harrigan’s Phone
My favorite thing to do to get in the Halloween spirit is reading Stephen King’s bone-chilling horror stories and watching the film versions. He has always done an incredible job of creating intriguing masterpieces about the psychic battle between good and evil that we all endure.
I finished reading his novella “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” in his 2020 book If It Bleeds. The story is an anti-tech fable about a reclusive retired billionaire, Mr. Harrigan, hiring a boy named Craig to read to him a few times a week in the early 2000s.
Their bond begins with a shared love of books and deepens over the years. Craig buys the old man an iPhone as a gift of appreciation and brings him into the modern world. The old, astute businessman predicts that iPhones will negatively affect society in many ways.
For Example, Harrigan says, “I’d be terrified by this gismo. It is like a broken water main spewing information instead of water.” It’s true how the iPhone changed how we receive local or global news, whether factual or fake. I grew up in the early 2000s, like Craig, so I have seen the effects.
King did a great job explaining it from an economic/business perceptive. Many anti-tech fables only focus on the downfall of human connection and the corruption of advanced technology. King still touches base on both, too but not in an annoying way that affects the moral of the story.
The story has a “Be careful what you wish for” horror theme, like King’s Pet Cemetary. When Mr. Harrigan dies, Craig slips the device into his pocket when he goes to the casket. Craig soon discovers he can still communicate with his old friend from beyond the grave.
As Craig struggles to deal with bullies and the harsh truth about justice, he vents to Mr. Harrigan. When his foes start dying, Craig begins questioning who he is friends with and has to learn that “Not all ghosts are holy.”
Although this novella is more thoughtful than frightful, it’s an amazing horror story. The Netflix film wasn’t as exceptional. I am very disappointed about the filmmakers misunderstanding of the story’s emotional core.
The film has terrible pacing, an absence of a plot, and unnecessary dialogue. The main characters seem undeveloped, and the secondary had incorrect roles. For instance, King’s Craig is a middle schooler instead of a high schooler when he deals with Mr. Harrigan’s death and his first bully. He also didn’t date Regina. Regina is just the first girl he kissed. I understand they cannot present every detail in films for specific reasons.
However, I think they rushed through everything after showing the development of Craig’s bond with the older man. The novella does not focus too much on the social effects of iPhones, yet the film has many scenes about it. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked that they left out so many incredible, freaky details about the deaths. For example, the novella shows both victims had parts of their hair turning white after they died.
I guess the film was a good representation of Mr. Harrigan’s view on films. He tells Craig, “Films are ephemeral, while books— the good ones— eternal, or close to it.” So I highly suggest reading the story instead of just streaming it.