A completely bizarre, confusing and totally boring watch. It definitely won't put you off using your mobile phone.
With Stephen King horror adaptations such as Misery, The Shining and Carrie going down as some of the best thrillers in history, his latest feature film adaption Cell certainly had a lot to live up to. The plot is rather simple; one day, the world’s mobile phone users suddenly turn into murderous zombies who are controlled by a phone signal amongst apocalyptic madness. What’s not to love?
Unfortunately, there was so much wrong with this film that it really did make it rather difficult to watch. With an explosive start, Cell did successfully jump straight into the action, and the opening was pretty good, as it looked to be a promising start.
However, the problem with Cell is that it jumps leaps and bounds in the plot and character relationships, leaving nowhere near enough time to work on these things. Somehow, people know all too quickly exactly what is going on, and make survival friendships almost instantly. Clay Riddell (John Cusack) and Tom McCourt (Samuel L. Jackson) understandably pair up to survive the crazed zombies, yet their interaction is unnatural.
There’s none of the classic “I gotta do what I gotta do”, or “I would kill you if you got infected in an instant” talk. The two seem to be the best of friends despite only knowing each other for a short while. And although Clay’s primary concern is to find out whether his family are alive, he encourages his new found friends Tom and Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman) to go with him, despite having no plan past this.
The acting is pretty appalling also, with usually talented actors unable to deliver the simplest of lines convincingly. What’s worse is that when something supposedly bad happens, the actors are totally unconvincing in their distress. In the same way, it is difficult to care about even one person in the film because there is nowhere near enough character development to evoke any sympathy from us.
Although the premise of the film itself is unrealistic (I hope), this is not what lessens the film’s quality. It is the unconvincing way in which the whole film is executed, whereby it feels like even the actors themselves don’t believe the narrative they’re a part of. Some scenes feel as if they are taking us nowhere, and are therefore completely unnecessary for the film. Whereas in the ones where things do happen, it’s totally unconvincing.
One slightly redeeming quality is the performance of the zombies. They are given a fairly difficult task; their aim isn’t to simply act insane and hungry for flesh. They also have a motive and a uniform nature about them. The fact that they are controlled by a phone signal makes them unpredictable and not necessarily as volatile as the standard zombie. The use of mobile phone digital sounds was also deafening and actually quite scary.
Nevertheless, this alone is certainly not enough to save an ultimately hopeless film. There were some laughs and some scares, but mostly there were lots of awkward grimaces and bored yawns.
Cell, directed by Tod Williams, featured at FrightFest 2016.