Action, Horror, Science Fiction, Zombies

Cell (2016)

Comments Off on Cell (2016) 27 October 2016


Studio: Lionsgate

Theatrical Release: July 8, 2016 (limited)

Blu Ray Release: September 27, 2016

Director: Tod Williams


Review by James Klein

Try and think back, think way way back, when movies based upon Stephen King books was something to look forward to, an event. I remember anticipating the likes of Cat’s Eye, Pet Semetery, Graveyard Shift, The Running Man, and Misery all coming to my local theater and trying to figure out or con my way into seeing these movies. So when did King adaptions became and thing of the past? Was it the countless sequels like Rage: Carrie 2 or Children of the Corn 666 or The Mangler Reborn? Or was it when that talentless schmuck Mick Garris started making those God awful made for TV miniseries? Either way, the King films are a thing of the past. Sure there may be a few that pop up from time to time like 1408 or Dreamcatcher but none of them hold a candle to his older 80’s classics like Christine or Creepshow or even Silver Bullet. Fans are stuck with shit like, well lets take Cell for example…

John Cusack stars (and was the executive producer) as Clay Riddell, an estranged husband and father whose recent graphic novel was just picked up for publication. As he is sharing the good news via cellphone with his wife and son at the Boston airport, his battery dies on his phone, thus cutting them off. Within seconds, everyone at the airport who is connected to their phone somehow starts to shake, drool, and convulse until they become bloodthirsty maniacs who attack and kill everyone in sight. Narrowly escaping death, Clay meets up with subway train conductor Tom McCourt (Samuel L. Jackson) and evacuate onto the streets of Boston, where the city is in chaos with over turned cars and burning buildings all about. Hard to believe that within twenty minutes or so, the world will look like something out of Walking Dead.

Clay must get back to his son and wife so he and Tom travel towards Clay’s home, taking along with them on their travels Clay’s neighbor Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman from Orphan) and student Jordan (Owen Teague) and school master Charles Ardai (Stacey Keach) who inform Clay and Tom that these “phoners” are taking refuge at their school’s football stadium at night. This is when their power is lower and they need to recharge. Clay and Tom burn the bodies but as they die, they send out signals to other “phoners” to attack our heroes wherever they may be.

While the first half of the film is exciting, Cell quickly loses its momentum as it becomes apparent that at a running time of only 98 minutes, a conclusion will either be rushed and incoherent or be left open ended. Cell succeeds in doing both. When Clay finds out where his son is located, he goes on a suicide mission to get him back in a climax that absolutely makes no sense, leaving the viewer speechless as to what the fuck happened. The ending almost plays out two completely different endings and pastes them together rather shoddily. While Stephen King’s novel had an ambiguous conclusion, it at least wasn’t incoherent.

The ending of the film isn’t the only problem. Oh there are many. Lets start off with the direction by Tod Williams whose previous film was the awful Paranormal Activity 2. Williams doesn’t like tripods and has a tendency to shake the shit out of the camera overtime something exciting happens. Is this to hide the low budget? It’s so annoying and I was hoping this shaky camera trend would be over by now. Rumor has it that Eli Roth was once attached to this project as director. I would have liked to have seen what he could have done but he may have fouled it up anyways by casting 20 year old models, swearing every other word. But the gore would have been epic!

The screenplay is pretty bad. There is absolutely no character development at all. At the film’s conclusion there is a moment where Clay and Tom say goodbye to one another and you never once get the feeling these two guys even gave a shit about one another. Action sequences come out of nowhere and then just simply stop, leaving the viewer wondering what the hell was happening. The biggest surprise is that the screenplay is co-written by Stephen King himself. I have read the book, I thought it was pretty good too so why he chose to leave out much of the characterization is baffling.

A few more complaints: the performances are so wooden its a curiosity why Cusack and Jackson even agreed on doing this film. Is it because 1408 which they both starred in was semi-decent? Either way, they look so bored, showing barely a moment of emotion as these zombie-like strangers attack them at various moments. Maybe it’s hard for them to act in front of a green screen because most of this turkey was done in front of one. The shitty climax is all done with green screen and looks amateurish and cheap. Try to hold back from laughing when a CGI-cartoonish airplane explodes in the air.

Presented in 2:40:1, the picture for Cell looks fine and like most modern films released in HD the colors and detail look pretty spot on. Certain sequences tend to have a color tint which is a directorial choice and one I found a bit distracting where one moment the film has a greenish tint to it and other times a purplish tint. I found it annoying frankly. The DTS-HD 5.1 sound is really good with all sorts of special effects like explosions and gunfire coming from all around the left and right speakers. Dialog can be heard clearly as well. The only special features on the blu ray are a 12 minute making of which mostly recaptures moments from the film and shows the actors briefly discussing the movie as they sit behind…a green screen. There is also an audio commentary by the director which I found interesting as he speaks about the fruition of the film and budget constraints he faced. He has nothing but praise for his actors and crew and I only wish he had made a better film as he sounds like a decent guy who knows what he’s talking about.

Cell is a major disappointment. I love a good Stephen King adaptation and this is not it. Such a shame as the book is fast pace, fun read. This movie version is just a rushed mess.

Movie Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★☆☆


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