With Cell, it doesn’t take long to get the gist of what the next hour and 38-minutes entails: within the first few scenes, you recognise the significance of a world where everyone is constantly on their mobile phones. With short, sharp cuts married with ominous music, this film suggests something more eerie, but there isn’t much of a plot before the drama unravels, apart from the typical “busy American father can’t make it to his son’s baseball game” trope. Not long after Clay (John Cusack) ends a phone call with his estranged wife and son, a mysterious interference causes a zombie apocalypse, with everyone who was using their phone violently killing anyone in sight.
Clay escapes to a subway station to find a group of normal people terrifyingly hiding from the zombies – which we soon learn are called “phoners” – on a stationary train. Amongst the chaos strolls in Tom (Samuel L. Jackson, who acts in his usual calm demeanour, despite the current situation). Once again, he and Cusack are paired up for a Stephen King adaptation, following a similar plot to 2007’s 1408. Both include cynical authors as the main protagonists whose books and graphic novels begin to bear real-life events.
The two leads make the decision to head out into the devastation, picking up a few stragglers on their way, as Clay is desperate to find his wife and son. There’s a pause in action when the small group find a “no cell phone” area: a bar with a few “supposedly normal” people inside. A few drinks later and we see the remains of humanity coming closer together. The classic Hollywood calm before the storm – and it doesn’t get much better than this.
Based on King’s 2006 novel, Cell, perhaps ahead of its time, suggests the dehumanisation of a society ruled by mobile devices and technology alike. An interesting and thought-provoking concept to explore through literature, however, the film doesn’t quite pull through as either.
It’s difficult to define this as a horror film when none of the characters appear as terrified or concerned as they should be considering the circumstances. The predictability combined with the half-hearted acting makes Cell as unthreatening and tedious as watching a fifth re-run of Everybody Loves Raymond on a Tuesday morning.
Cell is released in cinemas on 26th August 2016.
Watch the trailer for Cell here: