June 11, 2016

VOD Review: Cell (2016)

"This movie had so much potential..."

(aka Should Have Gone With T-Mobile.)
Release Date: June 10th.
Country: USA.
Rating: R.
Written by: Adam Alleca and Stephen King.
Directed by: Tod Williams.
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, and Stacey Keach.

Having read the book by Stephen King, I went into Cell expecting certain things, and knowing that I just wasn't going to get what I wanted. I'm not delusional, I know that most books-turned movies fail to give book readers what they want in a movie version, but still, I had expectations.

And doubts.

As it turns out, it was my expectation of those doubts that were actually met. Did that even make any sense?

Clay Riddell is a Bostonian artist who just landed the biggest deal of his life; someone wants to make his Graphic Novel into the next big thing, kinda like AMC did with The Walking Dead. Having just returned from the meeting that is about to change his life, he calls his estranged wife to tell her the good news, and because he misses his kid.

In the middle of the call though, his Cell dies, and while he's looking for a charger (in an airport), everyone around him who is on their phones turns into crazed, zombie-like maniacs, and start ripping each other to pieces. It seems as if someone broadcast a murderous signal over the global cellphone network, and thus the Tech Apocalypse has arrived.

Wanting desperately to get to his wife and son, Clay teams up with a stand-up guy named Tom;  and a sweet, traumatized teenager named Alice; and together they set out to find his family, and maybe even stop whoever sent the signal to begin with.

This is not going to end for some of them.

Cell is a movie that screams of production issues, poor editing, and of being rushed. That said, what's there is a actually pretty damned good... aside from that god-awful ending.

First off, the cast is great. John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson are great actors, and they're perfectly cast in this one. They had great chemistry, and they rocked their roles, as limited as they were. The true standout here though was Isabelle Fuhrman as Alice; in the books, Alice is lovable, and her storyline was the best part of the book for me, and Fuhrman does the character great justice in the movie. Again though, she wasn't given much space to "spread her wings" with Alice, which is a shame.

The Viral/Infected aspect of the movie was pretty cool. The "Phoners" are pretty creepy, and sometimes even terrifying, when they swarm on someone to rip them limb from limb. Especially when they do that creepy digital scream thing.

This movie, like many of Stephen King's stories, would have worked way better as a mini-series. Perfectly, even. Hulu did it right when they made King's 11.22.63 into an 8-parter, and as good as some of Cell was, it could have been excellent had it been handled the same way.

The movie, clocking in at 97 minutes, just felt too rushed. The situation was suitably dire, and the characters were solid, but the story just moved along too quickly for it to be able to be as effective and emotionally impactful as it needed to be. Maybe it's because I read the book and know all of the things that they changed, skipped over, and rushed in order to fit it all into an hour-and-a-half-long movie, but it just didn't play like it could have.

WTF was with that ending? First off, it was completely different than the ending in the book, which is fine, but it was such a confused and cheesy mess, that it killed what little good credit the movie had built up over the previous 80-minutes. That last scene with John Cusack... the one that repeats, as if it wasn't bad enough the first time through... felt like something you'd see in the very worst Nic Cage movie.

What the shit?!?

There's a surprising amount of blood and gore in this one, and most of it was handled pretty well.


You should definitely read the book first. Or maybe after. Either way, it makes for a good companion piece to the movie. And it's definitely better.

Cell is one of those movies that makes us feel bad for it, because as choppy and rushed as it is, it could have been great with a bit more love and care. And running time. There's a lot of good stuff to be found in Cell, there's just not enough of it.

I say it's worth a rent, just temper your expectations a bit.  


Cell is available on VOD now, before it hits theaters on July 8th.


The creepy little girl from Orphan is all grown up.


  1. Best review I've read of this ultimately frustrating film!

    1. Thanks. It was definitely frustraing...

    2. Good read! As for the film? It could have been a lot better, but there are just too many unanswered questions for me. Was it all a dream? Were we seeing the graphic novel live? Was it aliens? Was it social commentary on modern social media 'group think'? Why was Cusacks character at the airport before arranging a visit? Why did I feel weird around 47 mins after looking to see how long was left on the film? Why did they all dream the same guy in a hoody? What was the point of the ending? Infact, what was that ending, period!?

  2. You may already know this, but Stephen King actually was unhappy with his original book ending, which I guess play it safe, and personally came up with the ending that is in the movie. Yes it was super rushed, but damn, that ending was nasty sad.

    1. I could live with the sad part, but it just needed to be done with more care. Like you said, rushed...

    2. That ending really creeped me out, like I dunno what it was about it, the music mixed with John Cusaks face not looking dead but like vacant of any soul, mixed with the weird way they were prancing around in a circle like some satanic weekend at bernies ceremony, it kinda reminded me of a nightmare I had one time and it left a really uneasy feeling in my stomach. Not many movies can achieve that nowadays.

    3. God I thought it was just me! I didn't get the ending - haven't read the book - but couldn't forget the image of John Cusak in that zombie dance around the maypole scene. Creepy.

  3. I love your review, because it hit the exact expectations I was looking for after just watching the movie. The ending was horrid, I couldn't believe it. Left me with a sigh of relief knowing he saved them, but then suddenly that was all in vain, and he ended up becoming a phoner, like the fuck? A+ on the review, loved every second of it!

  4. Just got done watching the movie myself. I felt it was a little bit cheesy of a subject. It seemed like a different version to the latest zombie fixation everyone seems to have and crave lately. Isabelle Furham looked too much like John Cusack that I found myself constantly comparing how much they looked alike. I agree the movie had a lot of potential and could have been a lot better. The actors were awesome, this review was spot on! The ending sucked and had me searching the internet for an explanation to "What the hell happened, am I understanding this right?" which that shouldn't happen. A move should end and people should be able to understand it and get it. Everything should make complete sense at the end. I am going to definitely read the book!

    1. King always writes about cheesy subjects like that. I mean he wrote a story about a haunted washing machine lol

      Definitely read the book. It will make you dig the movie even more, flaws and all.

    2. King also wrote it as a homage to George A. Romero so the zombie-like thing was intended, but with a King-twist.

  5. When I first saw that Cusack was in this I thought he's the new Nic Cage - both great actors but typecast in b-movie action flicks in their middle-age years.
    The thing that most stayed with me about the novel was when the rage first happened. King wrote this crazy panoramic scene with the violence happening in a 360 degree slow-mo crazy as anything I've ever read before. Strangely, I always thought it was a very cinematic scene. Please tell me they got that right at least.

    1. Agree 1005 about Cusack and Cage.

      In the movie, the big rage scene at the beginning happens in an airport. It kind of felt "panoramic" like you say, but it was way different than the book. I liked how it was in the park in the book, but it was alright at the airport I guess.

      The one thing they got right is the cast. I think the three leads were perfect for the roles. That's something, at least.

  6. This is one of those films where I have to google "ending explained", and nothing much got explained so I don't really quite get it...however the theme was very cool otherwise!!!

    1. You're probably not going to find a lot about the ening online, as this movie's production was a mess from the start.

      For me, his son screaming into his ear turned him into a phoner, and the part with them walking down the train tracks in the sunlight was all in his mind.

      It was a confusing, shit ending all around.

    2. I thought something similar, but then, I thought, wait.. Are they saying the zombies aren't zombies, but they're alive (and totally rescue-able)? And their minds are trapped in a Repo Men-type ending? Seriously... It would be nice if Step K. took time out of his busy schedule of giving his fans the proverbial middle finger and explained this one.

    3. I'm sorry, not trying to sound like a jerk, but to me the ending was pretty straight forward. The ending showed that all the people that were turned into the zombies were basically all stuck in a perpetual dream state. There is a movie that is animated mixed with live action from 2013 called 'The Congress', with Robin Wright. The ending of that movie is very similar to how I envision what is going on . The Cell.

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    7. Yes, as soon as he answered the phone or whatever at the tower, he turned into a zombie thing. everything we saw was just he delusions. Think of it like The Matrix, they are all living happy little lives in their own mind, but in reality they are slaves.

  7. Maybe i am reading into this but i think Stephen King's adaptation of his book Cell was a message.Saying that because of phones we are all mindless drones with apps (Facebook)that create the hive mentality plus not to mention how vicious some ppl can be i have seen forums were ppl get ripped from limb to limb.The ending is 50/50 yeah it sucks that he was not successful detonating the c-4 but he still found away to find his own slice of heaven although it be a fake one.In my mind king is sending a message saying that you don't need your cell to function you don't need to be one of the hive or a mindless zombie.Oh and the demon wearing the harvard hoodie is Mark Zuckerberg the creator of it all...lol.

    1. You're not reading it wrong at all, I'm pretty sure that was a big commentary on how we're all slaved to our devices.

      Didn't think about the Mark Zuckerberg thing... but it makes good sense lol

    2. .....that would explain the 'president of the internet' title.

      I like your rationale of the movie, its ending, and its concepts.

    3. That would explain "The president of the Internet" title.

      I like your rationale for the movie and its concepts.

      Wish they would have spent more time with the crazy dude who blew himself up... he seemed to have inside knowlege but they rushed through it.

      Like why did they all start having that dream only after a mass murder.

      Movie kinda made me want to read the book.

  8. Wondered if all wasn't a dream since the airpport scene.
    That would also maybe explain why the guy exploded himself to open his mind.
    Think of it, people are getting so attached to cell phones, social group and virtual reality, the virtual tends to be their reality.
    And as in the end (people walking in circles), people think they are more connected than ever, but actually are stuck in the reality they are offered, don't think for themselves but are in the end all alone.

  9. My thoughts were that when he found out his son had turned into a cell he thought he would always be there for his son no matter what and embraced his sons change knowing he would be with him, tho turning himself into a cell to live the rest of his existence in a dream like state where everything seemed normal even tho he had joined everyone else in the cell mind encompasing everyones co joined thoughts as one unit. Artificial intelligence leads him to believe he still exsists. Kinda like he went to hell.. CWH

  10. My thoughts were that when he found out his son had turned into a cell he thought he would always be there for his son no matter what and embraced his sons change knowing he would be with him, tho turning himself into a cell to live the rest of his existence in a dream like state where everything seemed normal even tho he had joined everyone else in the cell mind encompasing everyones co joined thoughts as one unit. Artificial intelligence leads him to believe he still exsists. Kinda like he went to hell.. CWH

  11. He went to hell for love for his son. Artificial mindset makes him think everythings ok but he got trapped in the cell state of mind.

  12. I think the ending is the CN tower in Toronto the biggest one in the northers hemisphere and was built by a railway company, witch is why the train tracks at the end.

  13. The ending was confusing but my take on is that the son turned him before the truck exploded and the Internet king led him to belive they were OK so he could track down the rest of the guys that's why they were following the initials on the tree.. so basically they all got tracked down and killed.

    1. Damn good point, all these comments together makes. A. Lot. Of
      Sense! Now I suddenly love the movie! While two questions remains: why did they dream just after the massacre? And how, when and did Clay create Raggedy Man?

  14. OMG let me gather my thoughts together before i respond...

  15. I have to say that having read the book first, multiple times,I was extremely excited for this movie but was HIGHLY disappointed after watching it. I have to agree that it felt rushed, there where so many great aspects of the story that they left out, the beginning was completely wrong with the exception of "Pixie Dark" and "Pixie Light" and the butcher, the Raggedy Man had more to do with the actual storyline, and the ending was just terrible....Clay and Johnny weren't supposed to die. The cast was great but I feel like Toby Jones who played Ollie in S.K.'s The Mist would have been better as Tom McCourt since he's described as "a short man with thinning dark hair, and a tiny dark mustache". All in all I thought the movie was still decent, but could have had more details from the book and been a little bit longer.

  16. I love your review; very on point and one of the most concise I've ever read about a book turned into a movie.
    Seems like everyone agrees that this film was rushed, what a shame as it would have been a fantastic mini-series.

    The ending sucked, period. Whether S.K liked the ending in the book or not, it worked. Back when I first read it, the erasing of the brain to reboot, to start again, was a masterful finish to a well-told story.

    Anyone who's excited about having read the book and discovered that it got turned into a movie (like I did) don't expect too much and you might be surprised and like it.
    I'd rate the whole movie 6/10 whereas the book is a definite 9/10.

  17. I agree with your review of Cell. Yet another mis-handled Stephen King adaptation. However,I think that the 11.22.63 mini series was awful and did no justice to the book.

  18. I thought it was pretty straight forward:

    The older woman @the bar got transformed through the door (remember the dean guy was talking about the cell people evolving)

    Sooooo @ the end when his kid was standing in front of John C's character it opened its mouth & well made him in2 a cell zombie thing & J C's character joined the flock hive cell zombie whatever's walking around the tower

    It showed the unexploded truck from above, he didn't make it.

    Cheers, just my 85 cents worth

  19. (I enjoyed the illuminating comments some of you have added to this thread. Here is my interpretation of this film's ending, which includes several other theories into what I feel fleshes out a solid convincing premise for what happens, explaining it, at least to my satisfaction)

    1. Clay travels by himself to Kashwak, reaching the area where the Eternal Maypole Dance is occurring.
    2. He pushes through the circling crowd of phoners, reaching the place where he parks the C-4 laden truck, gets out and approaches what he believes to be the Red Hooded Man.
    3. What he doesn't know, what none of us know is that the Red Hooded Man is a collective hallucination that originated with Clay's creation of the Night Traveler in his intended graphic novel. The collective consciousness of the phoners, possessing psychic sensitivity, plumbed this image from his mind and used it as a distracting decoy, a focal point, to intimidate/harass and lure "normies" (normal humans), either driving them insane in the case of Ray Huizenga or push/pulling them to a specific place, in the case of Clay.
    4. Upon "destroying" the phantom only existing in his mind, placed there by the hive mind of the phoners, he hears a terrible sound. The phoners howl and then his son comes forth, seemingly normal. As the phoners have evolved, his son is a trap, in that he can appear normal long enough to get close to his target, Clay. The hivemind knew this, thus why they sent the one person he cared about.
    5. The moment Clay realizes his son is a phoner, having made the mistake of traveling to Kashwak and being turned, Clay gives up hope of survival, not wanting to live without his son, pulls him close. This is the moment Clay turns into a phoner, though we don't see this. He is sent into a delusion as Mike Keith above stated. This delusion has multiple layers, not dissimilar to the film 'Inception'. In his first delusion, he believes he detonates the C-4, immolating himself, his son and all the other adjacent phoners shambling around the tower.
    6. The second delusion, which becomes his natural mindscape, is that of having successfully escaped with his son in a peaceful daylit scenario, walking together as they follow the painted letters left behind by McCourt and crew.
    7. The final sequence, where his body now resides, is actual objective reality. His mind is trapped in the pleasant second delusion described above, while his body has become a phoner, mindless like all the others. His face slack, any appearance of a soul completely vacant (thank you, Kyle Kelly), he shambles forth as one of many cogs in the Maypole Dance, forever condemned to, (as the song being transmitted by the hive and clearly heard playing loudly) NEVER WALK ALONE..

    1. A) very good summation overall of the film so props to this website. Like many others here I've not read the book, just finished the movie and spent however long now wondering what the hell that ending was.
      B) yes girl from orphan deserves better parts....this was crap for her
      C)ok Greg- sorry I'm not savvy enough to write multiple posts lol so thank you for your explination. Except for #3 which perhaps you can e explain more. Why the man in the red hood out of all the representations of death or the apocalypse? Why is John cusacks character that important to the hive mind, as he clearly just ends up as one of the crowd - so why his character? Again you have the most understandable answer as to what happened at the end here, so no sarcasm our disrespect intended (difficult to make that clear via text). 5-7also took a few re-read attempts lol but that is on me. I still want to know who sent out this signal and why? Or is it the inevitable natural evolution? And are they just going to walk around four threw our for days under physical bodies start to give out?spiraling of which, never really see any zombie in wheelchairs....just saying lol appreciate your explanation

  20. I'm not sure what to think of this movie. I didn't know about the book or the movie until I saw that it was coming on Showtime last night. The description seemed interesting, about a cellphone signal turning people into savage killers.

    Then I found out it was a Stephen King movie and was so disappointed because I never really cared for any of the movies made on his books.

    I like how it started off, with the initial burst, and then finding out that they're evolving and don't need phones anymore. It felt very Resident Evil-like and I was curious to see how they were going to survive all this, if they were going to wait it out or figure out how to end it.

    Then the Stephen King stuff kicks in where he has to give a face to the whole thing and it's a guy in a red hoodie and he's all up in their dreams and, oh my, what luck, he's also a part of the graphic novel or something and... And sure enough, the ending pretty much wrapped up the whole thing like I thought it would.

    It probably would've been a lot better to scrap the red hoodie guy and had a simple ending, even if it was the guy's son turning him into a phoner (without the weird hallucinations or whatever it was).

    I'll admit, I do wonder how they would've kept evolving if the other stuff wasn't added.