It would perhaps not be too wrong to say that “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” begins with all the exciting promises of films adapted from Stephen King stories, but the work ultimately lets down on all fronts. Based on a novella by the same name, the new Netflix film follows a teenager named Craig who has a set of supernatural experiences after the death of Mr. Harrigan, an elderly man he was very close to. Along with supernatural happenings, there are shades of adolescent learning about life and morals here as well, but ultimately, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” remains a forgettable watch.
‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Through background narration, the film’s protagonist, Craig, introduces his hometown of Harlow, Maine, as more of a quaint village with only a few important places and a bigger town by the name of Gates Falls close to it. Having moved away from Harlow in the present, Craig recounts his time spent there as a child and the unnatural experiences he had in Harlow. When still a young boy, Craig had lost his mother, and this incident had left a sad impression on both him and his father. While the father had lost his way in work and life after losing his love, young Craig felt that he could have somehow prevented her death, even though this was only a childish belief with no concrete reason. It was around this time that the local billionaire, the richest man in Harlow, Mr. Harrigan took notice of him. As Craig used to read during the prayer services at the local church, the rich old man seemed to take an interest in the boy and asked his father to meet him.
Mr. Harrigan soon hired Craig to visit his grand house every day and read to him books of all kinds, as the man was losing his eyesight. Although young Craig agreed to take up this work initially for the money and maybe even the company, he did grow a strong and caring bond with Mr. Harrigan over the next five years. After getting to know the old man personally, Craig also had an interest in knowing who exactly he was and had looked up the billionaire on the internet. Mr. Harrigan seemed to have been a businessman with a record of workers complaining of his strong-willed and somewhat ruthless nature, to the point that some of his workers had even taken their own lives. As a teenager, Craig started to attend high school at Gates Falls, and he found trouble with the school bully on the very first day. When he casually had a word with Mr. Harrigan about it, the old man told him that one should harshly deal with their bullies and adversaries, be it at school or in business, as he himself had faced. Despite his seemingly cold character, Mr. Harrigan did not seem odd or one to be feared by Craig, until certain events started to unfold soon after.
What Strange Occurrences Follow The Death Of Mr. Harrigan?
After getting acquainted with a comparatively new social life in Gates Falls high school, Craig sees the importance of smartphones as almost a social currency. The high school cafeteria, where all the cool kids meet, is divided by the types of phones that the students carry, and the group with the iPhones is considered the coolest. Wanting to fit in with this crowd, Craig asks for an iPhone from his father too, but does not get it until Christmas as a festive gift. For five years now, Craig had also been receiving a specific gift from his employer, Mr. Harrigan, for all the special occasions—a Red Devil lottery ticket each time. Although Craig had tried his luck scratching the tickets every time, he had never won anything until the very same Christmas, when his father gifted him the smartphone. He scratched the Red Devil ticket to find that he had won $3,000. Feeling jubilant with the gifts he got, the teenager uses his new iPhone to call Mr. Harrigan first, to thank him for the lottery ticket that he had won. While attending high school, Craig does make new friends that he seemingly gets close to, but his best relationships, which can even be called best friends, remain with his father and Mr. Harrigan.
Throughout his growing years, Craig had developed an understanding that his elderly employee was lonely and helpless without him, and he, too, perhaps, felt warm while spending time with the old man, reading books to him, or discussing various matters. It is out of all these feelings that the teenager decides to gift an iPhone similar to his to Mr. Harrigan, not just to introduce him to the new technology but also so that they can keep in touch with each other from wherever. The elderly man denies keeping such modern objects close to him at first, saying that he knew for sure that this technology would soon control him if he started to use it. But he is quickly swayed over when Craig shows him the possibilities of easily live-tracking share prices, and Mr. Harrigan does decide to use the phone. Over the next few weeks, Craig teaches him new things that can be done with a smartphone, and ultimately, Mr. Harrigan even loses interest in the books that the boy reads for him and instead mindlessly scrolls on his phone. The two have a discussion about this as well, and Mr. Harrigan pretty much predicts modern life’s dependence on technology. Tragedy soon strikes, though, as one morning, Craig visits the huge house as part of his routine to find Mr. Harrigan lying dead from his old-age-related sickness. Craig grieves the death of his close friend and almost a parental figure and decides to secretly put Mr. Harrigan’s phone inside the corpse’s clothes before it is buried.
Soon after the funeral, Craig learns that the old man has left him a large sum of eight hundred thousand dollars in his will to help Craig with the cost of higher studies. Overwhelmed by such a grand fortune and also out of genuine love and respect for the deceased man, Craig uses his phone to leave a voicemail on Mr. Harrigan’s phone, in which he admits that he would give up the entire sum if he could just have his old friend back. The teenager had also sent a similar text about missing their afternoon sessions to the number, but he had obviously not expected to receive any reply either of the times. However, he does get a reply, the next morning, when a very cryptic message arrives on his phone from Mr. Harrigan’s number. Alarmed by this peculiar happening, Craig informs his father about it, but his father firmly believes that someone must be playing tricks with the boy. Craig cannot take such an explanation, though, as he had buried the phone with the corpse, and he was bullied and pushed around by an older student named Kenny, and although Craig did find ways to stop the bullying every time, Kenny never got off his back. At present, Kenny had been expelled from the school as he was caught selling drugs, and the bully wrongly believed Craig to have told the authorities about it.
On the night of a school event, Kenny beats Craig up, threatening to do more harm, but Craig still does not report Kenny to the authorities. Instead, he laments about it on another voicemail to Mr. Harrigan’s number, obviously not expecting anything to happen but only as a means of sharing his grief. But to everybody’s surprise, and especially that of Craig, Kenny is soon found dead in a freak accident. Although it was reported that the boy was drunk and had fallen from his second-story bedroom, his body had actually been found with a tin can of shoe polish in his hand, and some polish smeared on his mouth. During the very first interaction that Craig and Kenny had, the bully had threatened Craig to either polish his shoes or to eat the shoe polish out of the can, and Kenny mysteriously faced a similar fate before his death.
Craig is shaken up by the death, as he now firmly believes the ghost of Mr. Harrigan must have killed the bully, and that too, because he had complained to him about Kenny. Craig now also does more research into Mr. Harrigan’s past and finds out about a man who was once employed by the rich man but was fired after he was apparently caught stealing. This man, who worked as the gardener, was then also found dead by suicide, much like many of the other employees of Mr. Harrigan over the many years. Craig does not know how to react, as he is convinced that his past employer had an evil side to him, and he decides to change his phone to stop getting any more cryptic texts from Mr. Harrigan’s number. But he keeps the old phone nonetheless, his only connection to the dead Mr. Harrigan, and stows it away in a box inside his wardrobe.
Times change as Craig makes his way through a journalism course at a college in Boston and moves there. He does quite well academically and in life until his father gives him another shocking and sad piece of news. During his high school days, Craig had grown close to his biology teacher, Ms. Hart, as she was the only one who gave him support and company during his times of trouble, and the young, helpful woman really seemed to understand the teenager’s troubles. While Ms. Hart had gotten engaged and was returning from a weekend trip with her fiancé, they met with a terrible road accident, and Ms. Hart lost her life. The man who was held responsible for this accident, Deane Whitmore, had been drinking during this drive and had also had drunk driving arrests before. Although Craig and the rest of the students wish that Deane be punished for such reckless behavior, the court lets him off by making him go through rehab for 6 months. Craig is terribly angered by this, and he now decides to take matters into his own hands. He remembers the unusual supernatural power that he can make use of, and returning to his Harlow home, the teenager leaves a voicemail to Mr. Harrigan’s number directly asking him to kill Deane Whitmore.
“Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” leaves no mystery about the fact that the force at work here is definitely supernatural. Unlike any suspense thriller, there is no ploy or hacking in action, but it is Mr. Harrigan’s supernatural presence that killed the high school bully in such a ruthless manner. While no direct mention of it has been made in the film, what seems to be the reason for this supernatural presence is the fact that Mr. Harrigan had not been a particularly good man during his lifetime. Even though he was always caring for Craig, the same could not be said with respect to his employees, as the man even did not seem to care if his workers lost their lives. During a conversation early on in the film, Craig’s father tells him how one should not have to worry about mortal life and whatever goes on above the earth’s surface after they have died and been buried, and he mentions how such a fate is that with the most comfort.
Mr. Harrigan, on the other hand, did not have such a good fate, perhaps because of how he had treated many during his lifetime, and he was still stuck worrying about matters of human lives. Added to that was the fact that Craig kept contacting him, even though his messages were merely symbolic, and Mr. Harrigan could not rest easy. Soon after Craig leaves the voicemail about Whitmore, the man is found dead in the shower of the rehab center where he was staying. Deane Whitmore had cut a big bar of soap in half and swallowed one of the halves to choke himself to death. Incidentally, this soap also happened to be the favorite soap of Ms. Hart. Craig is now absolutely sure of what is happening, and he seems to freak out even more, as he realizes more than ever how he too was technically the reason for the deaths of the two men.
‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’ Ending Explained: What Does Craig Finally Do With The Phone?
After the realization, Craig returns to Harlow once again and visits Mr. Harrigan’s house. He had earlier seen a locked closet and now enters it to find old photographs of the man he had spent time with some months back. Craig had always wondered why Mr. Harrigan had chosen him and not some of the other boys for his job, who were better at reading. He learns that Mr. Harrigan had lost his mother very early in life as well, just like Craig. Perhaps he had understood the boy’s position in life, for he himself had once lived through it and had therefore decided to support him. The teenager now also understands that the cryptic texts he had received from the number actually meant Mr. Harrigan was asking Craig to stop contacting him. The reason for this was that either Mr. Harrigan was getting hurt due to these reach-outs, as he was not being able to rest peacefully, or he did not want Craig to get hurt, for the young boy was actually getting into a mental state of anger and revenge that would only make him suffer later on in life. Craig apologizes to both his ex-employer and his mother at the graveyard where they had both been laid to rest. He then runs to a lake shore and finally throws away his old phone, the only means of contact between him and Mr. Harrigan, into the water, putting their supernatural conversations to rest once and for all. He wants to throw away his current phone as well but cannot since modern human life be so intricately tied to the existence of our smartphones. In another background narration, Craig wishes that he does not want to be buried with his personal phone after his death.
Along with being a supernatural tale and a story of a teenager learning about letting things go, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” also turns out to be a clear, if not stern, warning against our tremendous dependence on smartphones that we have in modern times. However, none of the three elements that the film tries to focus on work too well, though, as none of it seems anything beyond a shallow passage of thoughts. The initial moments of supernatural suspense might make “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” an interesting Halloween-month watch for some, but overall, there is no harm in missing this film.
“Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by John Lee Hancock.