Movie Review: Cell

19 Jun


Released: 2016
Genre: Science Fiction / Horror
IMDB Rating: 4.5 / 10

In the 28 years that I have been on this Earth I have learnt many things, not least of which is the fact that it is incredibly difficult to adapt a Stephen King novel to film. Take It for example – a brilliant movie (well, miniseries), but not entirely faithful to its source novel (although, to be fair, it would be illegal to adapt at least 70% of the novel to film). Misery is another one – a good film, but one where it loses its punch because you can’t take half of the main character’s inner dialogue (which drove a lot of the story) and put it on screen.

Knowing these things I went into Cell with an open mind. I’ve read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the novel but wanted to be open to what the movie would do with its source material. It doesn’t deserve the outright panning it’s received from many critics, but it’s not without its problems either.

Surely this many men don't speak on their phones at urinals?

Surely this many men don’t speak on their phones at urinals?

The Plot

Clay Riddell has just received some very good news: someone has just offered to publish his graphic novel series with options for movies, games, the works. Since the Universe must keep balance in all things, however, Clay’s good news must be balanced against some bad to restore a natural equilibrium; in this instance the bad news is the almost complete annihilation of the human race as we know it by way of “The Pulse”.

“The Pulse” is a transmission broadcast over cellphones, turning anyone who uses their phone to make a call into a mindless, rage-filled lunatic (think 28 Days Later but with electronics instead of rabid monkeys kicking things off). Clay is caught in the middle of the initial outbreak and meets up with Tom and Alice. Together, the three will try and trek across the country to help Clay find his wife and son, who he was speaking to on the phone just before The Pulse hit.

The tricky part here is that people affected by The Pulse aren’t your typical zombies, and instead work as a hive mind and play to very different and rapidly changing rules of engagement. It’ll take everything Clay and Co. have to outsmart, outrun and out-blowup the increasingly large and aggressive hoard of phoners.

That feeling when it's yet another telemarketer offering you something.

That feeling when it’s yet another telemarketer offering you something.

The Visuals

Let’s go with 80% good and 20% meh.

Because the movie opens at the beginning of the apocalypse all you really have to do is trash a few neighbourhoods and it’ll all look relatively convincing. Also, because you aren’t dealing with actual zombies that decay a few white contact lenses, some dirt and some blood, and the occasional fake bone sticking out of a leg will suffice. So long as you have enough extras to fill out the scenes, you’ll be good.

On the downside there clearly wasn’t an awful lot of money for CGI work. The movie doesn’t make use of it an awful lot so it’s not a constant in-your-face problem, but since it’s used so scarcely I would argue then that it’s worth doing right. I’m not asking that you set actual office blocks or soccer fields full of people on fire for the sake of realism, just hire someone who can do a convincing job of it.

Dear Movie: This guy was important in the novel.

Dear Movie: This guy was really important in the novel.

The Feelings

Neither here nor there.

As a novel Cell was both an excellent horror story and social commentary. The phoners and what drives them were nicely revealed as the story progressed, as was their rapid evolution and the characters’ responses thereto.

As a movie Cell retains just enough from its source material to warrant the title and the tagline “based on the novel by Stephen King”. If you’re in the mood for a slightly above-average techno horror on a Sunday afternoon then you could do far worse than this. If you’re looking to watch a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s novel and the exclusion of important details and plot devices from said novel will make you angry and write things you shouldn’t on internet notice boards, then maybe give this one a miss.

My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy Cell at


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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in Movie Review


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