Ethan Hawke says making a good horror film is all in the “math”

Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke
Photo: Leon Bennett (Getty Images)

What’s in a scary movie? Well, according to Ethan Hawke, a whole lot of math. The veteran actor, who cut his teeth in the horror world in films like Sinister and Daybreakers, said there’s a certain divine geometry in making truly bone-chilling cinema.

“Making a good horror film is a lot like solving a geometry problem. There’s a math to a building. It has to be simple enough, complicated enough,” the actor tells /Film in a recent interview. “People write books about Hitchcock and the timing and the way the cuts work. There’s just a math to it.”

Hawke is putting his theory to the test in his new horror film The Black Phone. Again teaming up with Sinister director Scott Derrickson, Hawke plays a sadistic masked villain known as The Grabber. The Grabber lives to kidnap and terrorize children in his basement bunker—and on the side, (because everyone needs a passion project!) work as a part-time magician.

In Sinister, Hawke’s character Ellison Oswalt was the unassuming victim to the film’s grand menace (although unassuming may be too generous a word, given Ellison literally moved his family into a haunted murder house for a book deal.) But in The Black Phone, Hawke is the one doing all the menacing, as the trailer for the film reflects.

The Black Phone – Official Trailer

In his conversation with /Film, Hawke gushes over working with Derrickson on The Black Phone, and calls him a “very elegant filmmaker.”

“I feel like this script was even better than Sinister, and it’s more mature filmmaking,” he shares. “[Derrickson] makes good movies. If you love acting, you want to be with serious filmmakers because it gives you a shot.”

Hawke also shares that working on Sinister reignited his passion for acting, thanks to Derrickson’s love for cinema. “I loved acting for him. My character in Sinister was a really interesting challenge for me as a performer,” Hawke shared. “I like the way [Derrickson] thinks about movies. I like being in front of his camera because he’s just in love with it.”

The Black Phone will hit U.S. theaters on June 24.

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