Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, Clark Sarullo, Anthony Reynolds, Erin Elizabeth Burns, Stacy Keach
Written by: Adam Alleca, Stephen King, based on the novel by Stephen King
Directed by: Tod Williams
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, terror, brief sexuality and language
Running Time: 98
Date: 07/08/2016

Cell (2016)

1 Star (out of 4)

Mobile Warning

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This aggravating, confusing zombie thriller now has the dishonor of being arguably the worst movie ever made from a Stephen King novel, displacing Maximum Overdrive, Graveyard Shift, and The Mangler. However, those three movies are at least ridiculous and fun; Cell reaches a new low, feeling somehow displaced from anything resembling humanity. In trying to send a message about people spending too much time on their technological devices, the movie itself winds up as impersonal and awkward.

Graphic novel artist Clay Riddell (John Cusack) arrives at the airport in Boston, having just landed a book deal. He phones his estranged wife and son and decides he wants to see them. Unexpectedly, a strange signal begins to emit from all cell phones, turning their users into ravenous zombies. Clay manages to escape with a subway train driver, Tom (Samuel L. Jackson), and finds a distraught neighbor in his building, Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman). The trio hit the road for Maine, in hopes of finding Clay's family still alive. Along the way, they discover that the zombies (or "phoners") are exhibiting strange behavior, flocking together and somehow signaling each other, which makes the journey far more dangerous than expected.

Interestingly, stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson had previously appeared together in a superior King adaptation, 1408 (2007), but they do not build on any kind of shared chemistry; they almost seem like they're in separate movies. King himself co-wrote the screenplay, and Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor, Paranormal Activity 2) directs with a shaky-cam technique that's both lifeless and annoying. It's as if the movie were made by cell-phone zombies rather than actual people who have experienced social interaction.

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