Hellphone (2007) poster

Hellphone (2007)


France. 2007.


Director – James Huth, Screenplay – Jean-Baptiste Andrea, James Huth & Sonja Shillito, Story – Jean-Baptiste Andrea & James Huth, Producers – Eric Altmayer, Nicholas Altmayer & Sonja Shillito, Photography – Stephane Le Parc, Music – Bruno Colais, Special Effects Director – Joyce Menger, Makeup Effects – Guillaume Castagne & Frederic Laine, Production Design – Philippe Chiffre. Production Company – Captain Movies/Mandarin Cinema/Studiocanal/M6 Films/Canal+/M6/Cinecinema.


Jean-Baptiste Maunier (Sid Soupir), Jennifer Decker (Angie Jolimont), Benjamin Jungers (Pierre ‘Tiger’ d’Harcourt), Vladimir Consigny (Virgile Husson), Gilles Gaston Dreyfus (Emmanuel Tamalet), Christian Hecq (Fritz Haas), Cyril Goei (Pierre-Marie Mazeau), Clotilde Mollet (Sam Soupir), Anais Demoustier (Clemence Laugery), Judith Chemla (Margot Vareille), Edouard Colin (Franklin Tour), Baptiste Gaillaud (David Bijaoui), Geraldine Martineau (Charlotte de Lafoyette), Cordula Reyer (Matzu d’Harcourt), Silvie Laguna (Stephanie Ronssin), Gilles Privat (Jerome Fouque), Bruno Salomone (Herve Temmam), Patrick Vo (Marco Tse Toung)


In Paris, sixteen year-old Sid Soupir likes Angie Jolimont, the cute new girl at school. When she asks to text him, he becomes flustered because he doesn’t have a cellphone. He tries to pool together enough money to buy a phone but is not able to. He then goes to a Chinese shop that offers a sleek phone very cheaply. Sid takes the deal but soon finds that the phone has a life of its own such as dialling people when he is only thinking of talking to them. It spontaneously dials up one bitchy girl moments before her hair is set on fire by a classmate. Sid and his best friend Pierre find that they can use the phone to call people and make them do whatever he tells them to. They use the phone to humiliate bullies, teachers and cause mischief. As Sid becomes involved with Angie, Pierre sees the phone is causing Sid’s personality to become darker.

James Huth is a British born director, although all of his films have been made in France. He also directed Serial Lover (1998), Brice de Nice (2005), Lucky Luke (2009), Happiness Never Comes Alone (2012), Brice 3 (2016), Meet the Malawas (2019) and The New Toy (2022). All of these are comedies. Hellphone was Huth’s third film and the only one of these that ventures into genre material. The film is co-written by Jean-Baptiste Andrea, who previously co-directed the quite modest English-language horror film Dead End (2003), which Huth had also produced.

Hellphone came just at the point when smartphone culture was becoming widespread. It is akin to a film like The Twonky (1953) or Meet Mr Lucifer (1953), which were made just when television was becoming changing the word and imagined the comic worst in terms of a diabolical device gaining a life of its own. Similarly, this imagines a demonic cellphone – it in effect becomes a 976-Evil (1988) for the cellphone era – although here the exact origins of the phone are never specified. Since then, there have been assorted horror films about cellphones with Paranormal Extremes: Text Messages from the Dead (2015), Selfie from Hell (2018), Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022) and The Demons Within (2023), while Status Update (2018) was a fantasy film where whatever one typed as a status magically became true.

Jean-Baptiste Maunier with his new cellphone in Hellphone (2007)
Jean-Baptiste Maunier with his new cellphone

You would expect James Huth to make a horror treatment out of the material, but instead he goes in the opposite direction and seems to approach the idea as a giddy Light Fantasy. The film is shot and everybody outfitted in bright primary colours that makes the whole thing like an MTV Channel teen drama. Most of the film is centred around the comedic possibilities of humiliating bullies and teachers, of being able to get the phone to enact all sorts of comeuppances, or get Jean-Baptiste Maunier and friend what they want, just like some sort of teen fantasy film.

The central character gets a predictable arc where he turns over to the dark side thanks to the use of the hellphone and then treats his friend like a jerk, before realising the error of his ways. It is a very lightweight film – there is barely anything here that can be considered horror. Indeed, when it comes to the various despatches and we see Judith Chemla impaling herself with kitchen implements, it is clear that this is not a film taking itself seriously.

Trailer here

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