There’s a hell of a lot of classic films based on the works of Stephen King. The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Shining, Christine, Misery, Children of the Corn, It, The Mist, Stand By Me, The Running Man…The list goes on. But Stephen King’s works have unfortunately lent themselves to some utter shit, too. The 2013 adaptation of Carrie was a load of old wank, and his less-known works have been recently adapted into shite films – such as Mercy and A Good Marriage. Have you heard of them? Nope, neither had I… 2016 brings us another Stephen King adaptation, and this time the ol’ horror legend even contributed to the screenplay himself so surely this one must be good? It could be up there with The Mist in the modern King classics set, right? Please?
Cell takes place in a world where an electronic signal broadcast across all mobile phones can turn you into a rabid zombie-like killer. And everyone knows if you want to sort out this problem, you call in John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson. Yes, I am serious. Fuck me…Cell is one of those films that should be a timeless classic in how ridiculous and bad it is. But unfortunately, Cell takes itself far too seriously for the viewer to find any unintentional laughs anywhere in it. It’s a completely straight-faced pile of shit, so self-assured in its own quality that it clearly thinks it doesn’t even need to try. “I’ll just sit back and relax, I’m that good” is what the film is saying. But it is sorely mistaken.
Cell needed to try because, without the effort, it was just shit. Utter shit. Where do we begin with this abysmal train wreck? The acting. John Cusack is a fantastic actor – his performance in Love & Mercy in 2014 was one of his finest yet while some of his 90s output is pure class – but this was clearly a “pick up the paycheque and move on” type deal. Cusack sleepwalks through the film, even as a shotgun-toting slayer of virus-ridden maniacs. Unfortunately, in recent years, this is becoming more regular for him. In the last 5 years, he has starred in 7 direct-to-video films. 7! And yes, this is one of them. We’ve also come to expect this from Samuel L Jackson. He’s similar here in his complete lack of interest in the project, also aimlessly wandering through the production occasionally squeezing off a few rounds from his boomstick. And no matter how bad a film is, I’m always happy to see a shotgun go off. Chick-chick, bang. Chick-chick, bang.
The film is directed by Tod Williams – a man whose cinematic output includes Paranormal Activity 2 – and it’s clear throughout this film that either he isn’t making any effort either, or he has no idea how to direct a film. I find the latter hard to believe, since Williams’ 2004 John Irving adaptation The Door in the Floor was actually a rather good little film. So why is Cell so bad? Is the direction to blame? Is it King’s ridiculous attempt at satirical content in his ‘technology is the root of evil’ source material? Is it Michael Simmonds’ cinematography? Is it Jacob Craycroft’s editing? It’s hard to pin-point what tipped this film over the edge into such a terrible cinematic cesspit.
One thing is for sure, though. John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson are better than this. They’ve both been reduced to laughing stocks with their frequent appearances in these sorts of films, although Samuel L Jackson still gets offered some pretty good stuff here and there. He’ll always have Tarantino to look after him…
So, is Cell worth a watch? Absolutely fucking not. This is another damp squib in the history of cinema, and another stinky entry in the ‘bad Stephen King adaptations’ camp. One for hardcore fans of Cusack, Jackson or King only. If you want to see some thrilling modern King, check out The Mist – an unforgettable modern classic. I was hoping Cell was going to be good so I could say it was “exCELLent”. Fuck it. 0/5
Cell at CeX
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