“Don't be sorry because there’s nothing to be sorry about yet.” – Clay Riddell
Wow – this is a movie that kind of sneaked up from my blind spot.
I had read Cell by Stephen King when it was first published, on that reading I thought it would make a phenomenal film, based on the premise alone. At that time, I remember reading a report in Fangoria that the film rights had been sold (standard practice for all King’s books) and that Eli Roth was going to direct. Instantly, it became a dream project – a match made in heaven.
Sadly, a while later I read that Roth was off the project for whatever reason, but that it was still going to be filmed. Then, nothing….. so I assumed it was languishing in the deep recesses of development hell, possibly never to see the light of day, let alone a screen.
Sadly, I can’t seem to get a copy of Fangoria these days to save my life – but Cell WAS indeed made into a film, helmed by director Tod Williams, whose work I’m not familiar with. Sadly, the movie seems to have bypassed the cinemas and gone straight to DVD here in the UK, which is how I came to find it unexpectedly on the budget DVD shelves of Asda. It was a see it, grab it before it’s gone movie and its pedigree as a King adaptation meant that it made the 13 Screams this year, sadly bumping one of the original choices. But never mind – we’ll get to that one next year.
Despite the casting of headliners John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, and Stephen King himself co-writing the screenplay, I can’t help but wonder how Roth might have handled the film differently given his work on Cabin Fever and Hostel.
Frankly, some of the CGI effects fall a little short of the mark, but there are plenty – and I really mean PLENTY of graphic acts of brutality, dripping with gore, on display here. So no complaints whatsoever on THAT score.
Cell is one of King’s more unnerving stories because it hits a nerve. I’m not denigrating ANY of his work, he is, after all, my favourite author – but in reality, how many of us will encounter malevolent spirits in a deserted snowbound hotel, or a New England town full of vampires, or a possessed American muscle car of the fifties, or……well, you get the point.
All of us nowadays use cellular mobile phones. They’re everywhere. Every single place you go, you see people engrossed in their hand held devices, oblivious to everything going on around them. Crossing roads, shopping…..even (and I detest this most of all) in the cinema. Phones. It’s an addiction. What if something happened that everyone who was using a mobile phone suddenly turned into a bestial, ferocious zombie? Imagine the instant carnage. Imagine how totally outnumbered those NOT using a device would be.
This is the basis of King’s story, and of course the film. And this is the real power of the horror we see. It’s not supernatural in nature, no magic, no ghosts. Technology we use every single day suddenly turns on us. Now THAT’s horror.
It all kicks off at an airport, when everybody who is on a mobile suddenly receive a mysterious pulsing tone that immediately turns them rabid. They turn on those not using the devices, literally tearing them apart savagely. One of them repeatedly punches a young girl to death, repeatedly bludgeoning her. One woman runs into a wall repeatedly, destroying her own face. A security guard turns on and starts eating the sniffer dog accompanying him.
Clay (Cusack) manages to run for his life, but only just. He heads for the subway station under the airport where there are a group of survivors – the lucky few, in the main who have been spared merely because they were out of signal range underground.
From that point, the film becomes kind of a routine, standard zombie fare – avoiding the “Phoners” where possible, killing them where necessary. It’s actually like a cross between World War Z and The Walking Dead. The zombies are as fast moving and as savage as they are in WWZ, and seem to have much of the same hive mentality.
As the film is very, very recent – I won’t spoil the ending, which is different from the one in the book. This was changed by King himself because feedback he had received suggested that readers didn’t like how the book finished. Sadly, his new, supposedly crowd pleasing ending is a little confusing and I would’ve preferred he’d gone with his original closer.
But hey, zombies and mobile phones. Seriously, think about this film next time you’re walking down a street and see how many people are on their phones. If they suddenly “turned” – would YOU survive?
You can buy a copy of the film from Amazon on this link.
Copyright © 2010 - 2016 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.