#31in31 2017 – The Cell

“I came to help you.”

Story: Child psychologist Catharine Deane is able to enter the minds of comatose patients, thanks to a high-tech “Neurological Cartography and Synaptic Transfer System”. But when serial killer Carl Stargher falls into a coma-like state, the FBI asks Deane to enter the mind of the killer and find Stargher’s latest victim…before it’s too late.

Scares: Chilling imagery, especially of Stargher’s victims. Disturbing and unsettling, and quite a bit creepy.

Splat factor: Middling. Though the horror here is mostly psychological, there’s definitely some red stuff in the mindscape scenes.

Closing scene “shocker”?: No! Happy face.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Original.

Trick or Treat?: I’m fascinated by this movie, on many levels. The horrors of the mind. Director Tarsem Singh’s incredible visual imagery. Psychological horror at its most intimate; within the mind itself. The Cell offers a lot to its viewers, including something that’s missing from most modern horror, catharsis. Getting an emotional release after almost two hours of beauty and horror? Win.

Yes the story is the usual “find the victim” trope, yet The Cell spins it, turning a genre cliché into a compelling narrative. Jennifer Lopez is convincing as the inexperienced but dedicated Deane, and a wee baby Vince Vaughn plays FBI Agent Novak with just the right amount of time-sensitive desperation.

As troubled psychopath Stargher, Vincent D’Onofrio is…well, he’s as amazing as he always is whenever he gets to sink his teeth into a complicated character. Stargher is a cold blooded killer, and yet the physical and psychological abuse he suffered as a child influences everything he does. (Kudos also go to a young Jake Thomas, who plays the remnants of Stargher’s childhood memories.)

I could go on and on about the stunningly beautiful – and oftentimes sinister – visuals here. How they reference classic art and modern music videos, becoming a work of art themselves. How each shot in the mindscape looks like a painting. How set design, props and cinematography blend together beautifully. But go check it out if you haven’t already. Even if you have, see it again. I originally saw this years ago, and re-watched it for this review. I think it’ll be a regular re-watch from now on.

Score: 4.5 out of 5 pumpkins.

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