Stephen King is nothing if not prolific! The illustrious author/screenwriter has been terrifying readers and viewers alike since 1965, when his first macabre tale, “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber,” was published in “Comics Review.” The King of Horror hasn’t slowed down since, releasing more than 60 books and 200 short stories throughout his fabled career, with many of his works adapted for both the big and small screens. His latest offering, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” based on his 2020 novella of the same name, hit Netflix earlier this month.
Billed as a thriller complete with a suitably spooky trailer, in truth the film almost exists in two parts. The first half tells the sweet tale of the years-long friendship that develops between reclusive elderly billionaire Mr. John Harrigan (Donald Sutherland) and Craig (Jaeden Martell), the sensitive young boy he hires to read to him three times weekly. The storyline then takes a dramatic turn, leaning into horror territory, about 40 minutes in when Mr. Harrigan suddenly passes away and Craig discovers his aged confidante can communicate with him from beyond the grave via cryptic iPhone messages, which leads to the departed doing some very evil bidding on the teen’s behalf. Tonal disparity aside, the movie makes for a fun, spooky and thought-provoking watch.
Produced by Blumhouse and Ryan Murphy and adapted for the small screen by John Lee Hancock, of “The Blind Side,” “Saving Mr. Banks” and “The Little Things” fame, the flick is set in Harlow, Maine, a fictional town that Craig’s dad (Joe Tippett) comments “is so small, you could shout and 911 would show up.” Mr. Harrigan’s mansion is purported to sit at the center of the sleepy burg, a massive turreted estate boating a richly paneled library, where Craig earns $5 an hour reciting such classics as “Dombey and Son,” “Heart of Darkness” and “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”
In real life, the palatial structure can be found about 300 miles outside of Maine in Norwalk, Conn. And I have excellent news for horror fans because the property is open to the public! Originally built as a private residence for Wall Street titan LeGrand Lockwood, the impressive site currently operates as the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum. Tucked on a grassy 21-acre plot at 295 West Avenue, the sprawling exhibition hall abuts both I-95 and Route 7 in a bustling neighborhood, but when initially constructed, it was very much a country house, far removed from the commotion of city life.