VOD film review: Cell
Stephen King justice2
Victoria Curatolo | On 25, Aug 2016
Director: Tod Williams
Cast: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman
Watch Cell online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
When the opening credits appear for Cell – Tod Williams’ screen adaptation of Stephen King’s 2006 bestseller – you find yourself already at the brink of disappointment, as you see King’s name appear, not in the ‘based on the novel by’ category, but as co-screenwriter alongside Adam Alleca. King has created countable landmark works throughout his career, with notable adaptations including Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption and The Shining. However, all fans know that, despite being the best storyteller of the last 50 years, it never bodes well when the King of Terror himself attempts to write a screenplay.
The proof is in the pudding, with flops such as Cat’s Eye, The Shining miniseries and the recently released A Good Marriage – which saw a muffled adaptation of the author’s short story from Full Dark, No Stars – failing to win over audiences and critics alike. The same is sadly true of Cell, which recounts the events surrounding a destroyed electrical signal that causes all mobile phone users across America to transform into rabid, undead killers.
John Cusack stars in his third King adaption – after 1408 and Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, which celebrated its 30th anniversary release this week – as recently separated father Clayton Riddle, who attempts to reach New England (naturally) to see his young son. Of course, Riddle’s mobile phone runs out of battery seconds before this electronic apocalypse occurs, leaving him on the brink of desperation alongside fellow mobile phone novice Thomas McCort (Samuel L. Jackson).
The film starts so abruptly that you are immediately jilted as a audience member, and the pace remains so mismatched that you sit there with the same gawked look that Cusack holds throughout. An actor who remains one of the most iconic of recent decades, it’s almost ironic that Cusack’s character asks himself at one point “How did I get here?” He spends the majority of the movie looking bored and confused, while Jackson is almost forgettable. Although it may be a jolly thought to see the 1408 co-stars reunite, you swiftly remind yourself that 1408 was neither frightening nor entertaining enough to spawn or anticipate a sequel.
The end result isn’t well-acted or well-written and spends far too much time attempting to metamorphose into a Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later sequel. The film is merely empty; nothing is gained while watching Cell, and nothing is lost, except 95 minutes that you’ll never get back again. (Interestingly, the movie was scheduled to appear at FrightFest Glasgow this year, but was suspiciously cancelled at the last minute with no valid explanation as to why.) Ultimately, it’s hard to be forgiving, when shows such as 11.22.63 and Stranger Things are gracing our screens, with the latter paying homage to King in a nostalgic, intellectual and appreciated way.
Cell is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.