Cell

CELL: Phoning It In | Horror Movie | Horror Homeroom

I bought Stephen King’s Cell when it was first released, back in 2006. It was one of the books which felt infused by King’s new found cynicism after almost being wiped out by an idiot in a car – the very same accident which wormed its way thematically and psychologically into the final chapters of The Dark Tower. Already in 2006, cell phones were the norm and much of the criticism of the book was from people who claimed the story would have had more foreboding impact had it dropped five years earlier. When I first read the story – I got the subtext, but I was much more interested in the simple fact that it seemed to be King’s take on the zombie genre, having spoken out in support of movies like 28 Days Later. I quite enjoyed the book, even if it was on the silly side and didn’t always make the most coherent sense. I additionally felt that the book would make a very entertaining movie – the zombies were fresh enough that a cinematic take could be unique, and there were several setpieces which could have translated well from page to big screen. I waited for years watching rumour after rumour drop on a film version – I was keen to see what Eli Roth could do when he was attached, and then I was excited when I saw the triple threat of cast of John Cusack, Samuel L Jackson, and the great Isabelle Fuhrman. Is it any good?

Where to begin with this mess? I saw some reviews when the movie was released – they weren’t good. I hoped that these were simply the usual snotty elitists who can’t appreciate a King translation for the silly fun they are usually meant to be. I waited until the film was available on Prime to stream, and lordy, it’s not good. The plot is taken wholesale from the text – an artist is in New York away from his family when some sort of attack takes place. Basically, anyone who was using a cell phone (making a call) is turned into a blood crazed maniac and begins bashing anyone and everyone in sight. Clay, the Artist, escapes this initial wave, allies with a group of survivors, and plans to make his way back to his family in the hope they were not turned. Throw in a Big Bad who can control the zombies, some psychic dream nonsense, and you have a recipe for something already convoluted and junky. King’s gift in the story is making all of this, if not plausible, but relatable. We know it’s silly, but we trust King’s eye for character detail, emotion, and story-telling. The film has none of these things –  major plot points are dropped (or not) without explanation, and the story unravels in sequence without emotion, suspense, or meaning – it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens.

King’s gifts are not equated by director Tod Williams or screenwriter Adam Alleca. Williams, I have gone on record as saying that he made the best Paranormal Activity movie – so he knows what he is doing. I can only assume the production was the negative opposite of lightning in a bottle – the stars aligned to ensure that the worst possible outcome in every facet of the movie was achieved. Cusack seems like he’s having a stroke when trying to force out a tear, Samuel L Jackson seems bored, a few of the supporting characters are apparently genuinely damaged people that the filmmakers decided to put on camera for a bit of a laugh. Stacey Keach is fine for the three minutes he’s there, and Isabelle Fuhrman thinks she’s in a better movie than she actually is, or at the very least she’s trying to elevate things. On top of this, the soundtrack is filled with bizarre musical choices, the dialogue is low in the mix, and there are are three endings which you are free to choose as the one you want to be real.

Cell is a film I did want to love – I hold out hope that one day someone will make a good version of this, but I can’t see it. It’s a messy story, already dated, and that’s only going to get worse with time. There’s not a lot here for anyone to enjoy and everyone who you think would choose to watch the thing – horror fans, Stephen King fans – will be disappointed.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Cell!

Unbreakable – DVD Review

The follow-up to The Sixth Sense is a much superior film, smarter and more stylish, a mix of thriller, mystery and comic book which sees S.L Jackson and Bruce Willis teaming up once again. Willis is again distancing himself from his action movie persona by making films like these, proving he is a very capable actor. Here he plays David Dunn, the lone survivor of a traincrash- a man with a history of near-perfect health. He meetsElijiah, a comic book fan who kids call Mr Glass because of his crippling brittle bone syndrome.Elijiah takes an interest in David, and at first seems like a stalker. He wants to prove that David is almost like a superhero as he believes David is impervious to physical harm. He convinces David’s son and tries repeatedly to convince David, who claims he has been both sick and injured and is just a normal man who got lucky. However, David eventually realises otherwise and at the request ofElijiah, uses his powers to help the weak and defenceless.While The Sixth Sense was atmospheric, but relied heavily on its famous twist, Unbreakable is subtle and works on many levels. It was unfortunately, but unsurprisingly a smaller success. Shyamalan’s style is present here, with floating cameras and contrasts in lighting, built around a twisting plot. Naturally there is a twist, not as overt as his previous film but one which leads to more interesting dissection. Jackson and Willis are equally impressive, and the rest of the cast are good, mainly Robin Penn and Spencer Clark. A highly interesting film worth several watches, and an original take on the typical Comic Book movie.

This double disc edition has plenty of interesting features- cast and crew chats, deleted scenes with director introductions, and a super hero feature narrated by Mr S. L. Jackson.

*Originally written 2005