#31in31 2019 – “Cell”

“Open up, we’re Americans!”

Story: A guy gets off an airplane at Boston International Airport. Normal, right? But then a strange sound comes from the cell phones in use, causing people to seize and foam at the mouth. Then those folks go all 28 Days Later on people who didn’t hear the signal. Definitely not normal. Looks like this guy won’t be making it up to see his son any time soon.

Scares: Lots of high quality suspense.

Splat factor: People go batshit and tear others apart? Yeah.

Closing scene “shocker”?: A weird mixed-up ending that feels slapdash instead of scary.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: It echoes 28 Days Later, but it’s based on the novel by Stephen King.

Trick or Treat?: Samuel L. Jackson dancing to “Ring My Bell”? Thank you Stephen King. But other than that, Cell is a muddled plot in search of meaning. Heck, they could have leaned on the original novel instead of wandering off point. But nope. It’s all over the place.

There’s lots of fun FX, with people turning into “phoners” and then getting medieval on any uninfected around them. However, the “get to [PLACE]” story is just one scene of introducing blood fodder after another, with nobody actually making any kind of impact.

John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson are two guys who make it out of the airport together, but even these leads are thinly sketched. Granted, Cusack and Jackson give it their all, and it’s nice to have them together again after 1408. But the “walk walk, meet people who will die almost instantly, walk walk” doesn’t have anything substantial to hang on to. In films like The Ritual this same story gets viewers invested by delving into characters psyches and interpersonal dynamics, but with Cell they’re just…there. Pity, as the premise here is fascinating.

Don’t even bother with the ending. It feels like King tried to infuse his story with a bit of Walking Dude mythos, but it ends up puzzling instead of intriguing thanks to a screenplay that doesn’t seem to want to stick the landing. Ah well. At least the book’s still good.

Score: 2.5 out of 5 pumpkins. The extra half goes to SLJ’s dancing.

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