Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tod Williams|
by Stephen King
|Music by||Marcelo Zarvos|
|Edited by||Jacob Craycroft|
|Distributed by||Saban Films|
|Box office||$1 million|
Cell is a 2016 American science fiction horror film based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Stephen King. The film is directed by Tod Williams, produced by John Cusack, with a screenplay by King and Adam Alleca. The film stars John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, and Isabelle Fuhrman. The film was released on June 10, 2016 to video on demand, prior to a limited release scheduled for July 8, 2016. Cell is the second film adaptation of a King story to co-star Cusack and Jackson, after the 2007 film 1408.
The film was panned by critics upon its release; most criticized the film's acting and plot.
Clayton "Clay" Riddell is a disillusioned artist, who a year earlier abandoned his wife Sharon and son Johnny in hopes of living his dream of publishing a graphic novel. At Boston International Airport, Riddell tries to board a flight in hopes of reconciling with his family. His cell phone battery dies and he reconnects with Sharon by using a payphone. Suddenly an electronic signal (later dubbed "the pulse") is broadcast across mobile networks worldwide, turning cell phone users into rabid killers. Riddell escapes the chaos in the terminal, and meets a group of survivors in a subway car. The train's driver, Thomas "Tom" McCourt, suggests abandoning the train and travelling through the tunnels. Riddell agrees and, joined by a third man, attempts to escape the airport.
Near the tunnel's exit, their companion is slaughtered by an infected man, later dubbed a "phoner", and the two escape to the street above. Riddell leads Tom to his apartment. That night, they are joined by Alice Maxwell, a teenage neighbor of Riddell's who confesses that she killed her mother in self-defense. The three decide to escape Boston.
Heading north through New England to find Sharon and Johnny, Riddell and the other two acquire weapons from a house, and encounter a boy who is revealed to be a phoner. He is shot and killed, but a nearby flock chases the three to a nearby river. Hiding from the infected, they observe the flock emitting mysterious signals from their mouths and then walking off as a group.
After sundown, the three arrive at a private school, where they meet two survivors: former headmaster Charles Ardai and scholarship student Jordan. Discussing the turn of events, Ardai posits that the phoners have developed a hive mind and are telepathic. He reveals that hundreds of phoners are resting in the school's athletic field. Ardai has a plan to use the stadium's gas pumps and a truck to douse the group and burn them, and the others agree to help.
Riddell and Tom drive over and spray the unaware phoners, who are then set ablaze by Ardai. The fire spreads and causes an explosion that kills Ardai. The remaining group, now including Jordan, continue traveling north. Taking shelter in an abandoned drive-in theater, the four sleep and all dream about a raggedy-looking man in a red hoodie.
Days later, they encounter a group of survivors in a roadside bar. They tell Riddell and the others about Kashwak, a state park in Maine where there is said to be no cell service. They all decide to travel there, and spend the night in the bar. The next morning, Sally, one of the survivors, is awoken and then infected by a group outside, who can now transmit the pulse through their mouths. The group attacks Tom and Jordan. After saving Tom from a phoner, Alice is bludgeoned in the head by Sally. Tom fatally shoots Sally. The group takes Alice outside to a tree to rest, where she succumbs to her head wound.
Moving on, the group encounter Ray Huizenga and Denise, who say that Kashwak is a trap set by the Raggedy Man. Ray confides in Riddell that he has planted explosives in his truck, and kills himself to stop the Raggedy Man from reading his mind. The group make it to Sharon's house, and find that Sharon has turned into a phoner. Riddell learns that Johnny has headed for Kashwak. The others continue north while Riddell drives alone to Kashwak, intent on locating Johnny. There, Riddell finds thousands of phoners walking in a large circle around a communications tower. Riddell sees the Raggedy Man and runs him over, and hears his son calling to him amongst the flock of phoners. Riddell resolves to go through with the plan, but then Johnny appears before him. Riddell hugs him as he detonates the explosives in the truck, destroying the tower and killing himself and the phoners. Clay and his son find the yellow spray painted initials and follow the trail to Clay's friends.
It is then revealed, however, that the explosion was an illusion. Riddell, in fact, has been infected and is now walking in the circle around the tower. It is also revealed that the Raggedy Man is still alive, watching over the crowd.
- John Cusack as Clayton "Clay" Riddell
- Samuel L. Jackson as Thomas "Tom" McCourt
- Isabelle Fuhrman as Alice Maxwell
- Clark Sarullo as Sharon Riddell
- Ethan Andrew Casto as Johnny Riddell
- Owen Teague as Jordan
- Stacy Keach as Charles Ardai
- Joshua Mikel as Raggedy Man
- Anthony Reynolds as Ray Huizenga
- Erin Elizabeth Burns as Denise
- Jeffrey Hallman as Hog Tied Man
- Mark Ashworth as Bartender
- Wilbur Fitzgerald as Geoff
- Catherine Dyer as Sally
- E. Roger Mitchell as Roscoe
- Alex ter Avest as Chloe
- Gaby Layner as Maddy
- Rey Hernandez as Rick
- Frederick C. Johnson Jr as Rick's Partner
- Michael Beasley as Construction Worker
- Tom Key as Older Man
- Angela Davis as Blood Stained Woman
- Griffin Freeman as Mike Mattick
- Lloyd Kaufman as Bystander
The film is based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Stephen King. Dimension Films announced in March 2006 that Eli Roth would direct the project after finishing Hostel: Part II. Roth exited the project in 2009, saying:
There was just sort of a difference in opinion on how to make the film and what the story should be, and there's a different direction the studio wants to go with it. It was very friendly because it's the Weinsteins (Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein), they made Inglourious Basterds and we're all friends. I said, 'I'm not really interested in doing the film this way. You guys go ahead and I'm going to make my own films.' I've also learned that I really am only interested in directing original stories that I write, that's another thing I learned through that whole process.
Following Roth's departure, Screen Rant noted that the film "faded into the background"; however, in 2013 Tod Williams was announced as the director, which brought the film back on track. King stated that because fans did not like the ending of the book, he had changed it for the film.
John Cusack was the first actor announced to have joined the film in October 2012. Samuel L. Jackson was cast as Tom McCourt in November 2013. Isabelle Fuhrman was announced as Alice on February 5, 2014. The next day, Stacy Keach was cast in an unnamed role of a headmaster.
The film was shot over 25 days in January 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.
In February 2015, the producers of the film announced that Clarius Entertainment had acquired distribution rights. The company, now called Aviron Pictures, later dropped the film. Saban Films later acquired distribution rights to the film. It was to receive its world premiere at FrightFest as part of the Glasgow Film Festival but was replaced at the last minute by Pandemic. The film was released on June 10, 2016, to video on demand, prior to opening in a limited release on July 8, 2016.
Cell was panned by most critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 11% based on 54 reviews and an average score of 3.91/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Shoddily crafted and devoid of suspense, Cell squanders a capable cast and Stephen King's once-prescient source material on a bland rehash of zombie cliches." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 38 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times criticized the film's "bare-bones screenplay" for being "wholly unable to deliver even a smidgen of nuance or depth", and called Cusack's performance "possibly the most detached" of his career. Owen Gleiberman of Variety referred to the outbreak scene in the airport as the "only unsettling scene" in the film, and wrote that "the film is about as close as you could get to a generic low-budget undead thriller." Steve Greene of IndieWire gave the film a grade of "C-", calling it "a character study with a dearth of character", and concluding that the film has "no greater message [...] except that using a Bluetooth headset to call someone from an airport bathroom stall should be punishable by zombification".
Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, commending the performances of Cusack, Jackson, and Keach but criticizing the film's "occasional lack of storytelling clarity", calling it "rushed and unclear in its details about the pulse and its aftermath." Patrick Cooper of Bloody Disgusting called it a "forgettable adaptation" and further stated that "the story packs absolutely no punch and the solid stable of actors look bored for most of the film." Nico Lang of Consequence of Sound wrote that Cell wasted an intriguing premise and called it "unnecessarily glum and grim," as well as "pretty dumb." Bob Grimm of Coachella Valley Independent wrote that the movie "is easily one of the worst adaptations ever of a King story."
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