The Stephen King Chiller On Netflix That Everyone Has Forgotten

By Kevin C. Neece | Updated

stephen king
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone

Stephen King’s Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, a lesser known film based on one of the legendary horror author’s novellas, is streaming now on Netflix. The film was released in 2022, but begins in 2003 when a young man named Craig (Jaeden Mardel) befriends an older, retired businessman named John Harrigan, played by Donald Sutherland.

The Stephen King adaptation Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is streaming on Netflix.

Their relationship begins when Craig is asked to read to Mr. Harrigan three times a week, with Harrigan eventually offering advice to the younger man.

After they both get iPhones, Harrigan warms up to the technology and the two connect more. But after the businessman’s death, in true Stephen King fashion, the titular device seems to continue to carry a connection to its former owner.

As Craig struggles with the mysterious and gruesome power he now seems to hold in his hand, he unravels the truth about Mr. Harrigan.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone came out in April of 2020, at the start of the pandemic, which might have hurt its chances to find an audience as people worried more about real life and finding more family-friendly and lighter media fare.

The novella Mr. Harrigan’s Phone originally appeared in a collection by Stephen King that was published in 2020. The collection, If It Bleeds, also includes the novellas The Life of Chuck, Rat, and the title story. At the time, Publisher’s Weekly said the stories represent King “at his finest” and Kirkus Reviews said the collection is “not a bad place to start” for new readers.

Donald Sutherland in Mr. Harrigan’s Phone

Of course, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is far from the first of Stephen King’s works to be adapted for the screen. From his first novel Carrie, which was published in 1974, a wide swath of King’s novels have ended up as movie adaptations, TV series, and miniseries—sometimes more than once. His many titles adapted to film and television include It, Christine, The Shining, Pet Sematary, The Tommyknockers, The Stand, Hearts in Atlantis, Misery, and many more.

Not all of those Stephen King adaptations have been well received or successful, but many have become cinematic classics along with their award-winning literary counterparts. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone came out in April of 2020, at the start of the pandemic, which might have hurt its chances to find an audience as people worried more about real life and finding more family-friendly and lighter media fare. The fact that the original novella was not as well known might also have played a role in the film finding less of an audience.

Whatever the case, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is definitely a classic Stephen King story that should interest both his fans and those who are not yet familiar with his work. Among his less gory works, it is more psychological horror than the jump scares and bloody violence most often associated with the genre. It’s also not the first time the author has told a story about mobile phones.

Well before Stephen King wrote Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, he explored the horror potential of mobile devices in the 2006 novel Cell. In that story, an artist attempts to find his son after a mysterious signal broadcast over mobile phones has turned most humans into vicious, mindless monsters. The novel was well received by critics and was later adapted into a film directed by Eli Roth in 2016.

stephen king
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone

While that novel represented Steven King’s take on a zombie epidemic, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is less brutal. Still, it does bridge the gap between life and death, a story element hardly unknown to the master of the macabre. As early as Pet Sematary, which featured deceased pets returning from their graves in horrific fashion, King has crossed the boundaries between the living, the dead, and the living dead. Such stories don’t just scare us; they examine our relationship with grief, mortality, and our fears about loss and dying.

Stephen King’s Brush With Death

Stephen King himself might not have lived to write Mr. Harrigan’s Phone if a distracted driver had been just slightly more distracted when he veered off the road and hit the author in 1999.

Despite the small irony of the man who wrote a book (Christine) about a killer car being run down on the side of the road, the accident was a major physical and emotional setback for King. Still, he pulled through to a remarkable recovery and has remained one of the more prolific, honored, and admired writers working today.

Though Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is not as well known as other films based on Stephen King’s work, its intriguing premise might well make it attractive to viewers who are a little less interested in, say, demon clowns. If you’re curious, you can stream Mr. Harrigan’s Phone on Netflix right now.