Cell is a 2016 infected horror movie. Directed by Tod Williams (Paranormal Activity 2) and starring John Cusack (Identity, 1408), Samuel L Jackson (Snakes on a Plane, 1408) and Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan). The film is an adaptation of the 2006 Stephen King novel of the same name.
The film centres around Clay Riddell (Cusack) an ageing graphic artist on his way back to see his son and estranged wife. He’s interrupted by a violent outbreak at the airport when mobile phone users are suddenly transformed into rabid zombies and start running amok in the city. Riddel manages to escape the airport with the help of train driver Tom (Jackson) and they return to Clay’s home where they also acquire the recently orphaned Alice (Fuhrman). Forced to keep moving, they regroup at a private boys school in the countryside where they learn more about the infected and their hive mind mentality, as well as the mysterious “raggedy man”. Clay is ultimately lured to Kashwak, an area of Maine with no phone signal, where he must try and rescue his son from the techno-zombie mob.
Cell has it’s ideas rooted in the Japanese techno-horror movies of the early 2000s (Pulse, One Missed Call) whilst having a distinct post The Walking Dead feel. The latter of these influences is the more effective as the wandering party dynamic really keeps the momentum moving and the setting fresh. However, some of the ideas relating to the zombies and the way they functioned came across a little more ambitious on the screen than they would on the page. For example, phrases like “phoners”, “rebooting” and “flock killers” make perfect sense within the world that King has created but sound pretty silly out loud.
The re pairing of Cusack and Jackson from the underrated 1408 (2007) is a natural fit and the young Fuhrman shows more potential after the excellent Orphan. Even a brief appearance from exploitation legend Stacy Keach doesn’t go amiss, despite being given some of the most ludicrous dialogue on offer. Sadly, the budget of King adaptations has shrunk somewhat in recent years and the special effects leave a lot to be desired but the sound design is a triumph and the phoners make some truly horrific and original noises.
Even with the 10 year delay, Cell still feels like a pretty fresh satire of mobile device culture, which has only increased since the novel was written. The film has somewhat been beaten to the punch by the excellent The Signal (2007), but perhaps this was influenced by King’s work itself. A little on the cheesy side at times, this is still a solid zombie/infected movie with a King feel and strong central performances. They just don’t make Stephen King movies like they used to.
*** 3 Stars
What did you think of the movie? How does it rank amongst King adaptations?