Cell (I) (2016)

R   |    |  Action, Drama, Horror

Cell (2016) Poster

When a mysterious cell phone signal causes apocalyptic chaos, an artist is determined to reunite with his young son in New England.

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  • Isabelle Fuhrman in Cell (2016)
  • Cell (2016)
  • Stacy Keach in Cell (2016)
  • Mark Ashworth in Cell (2016)
  • Erin Elizabeth Burns in Cell (2016)
  • Anthony Reynolds in Cell (2016)

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14 June 2016 | DVDExotica
| For Us, It's a Horror Film. For Our Grandparents, It's a Documentary
Okay, people are going to tell you that this movie is dumb and corny and frustrating. Don't listen to them. Admittedly, they're absolutely right, but don't listen to them anyway.

This movie is the closest we're going to get to a sequel to Maximum Overdrive from Stephen King, and it's actually pretty close. Instead of a bunch of disparate stragglers surviving in a world where humanity is overrun by machines being controlled by an alien force, we get a bunch of disparate stragglers surviving in a world where humanity is overrun by people being controlled by an alien force. So it also dips into Walking Dead knock-off territory, where everyone who uses their phone basically becomes a fast zombie; but on the plus side, this still has a lot of King vibes in it.

Do you ever think about horror movies after seeing them and realize, if you view the film from the evil supernatural side of things, its motives make no sense? Like, "if the demon spirit wanted to possess the little girl before anyone could figure out what was going on and stop it, why did it spend the first 45 minutes terrorizing the babysitter and attracting needless attention to itself?" Well, this movie is like that: if you think about whatever mysterious intelligence is behind what's happening, what it decides to make the people it controls do doesn't really add up. But this movie goes the extra step, where you don't even have to do the thought experiment and shift perspectives to see that this movie regularly makes no sense.

It's like King wrote down his dream and these people filmed it. And that's kinda cool if you're prepared to view this film like Kurosawa's Dreams or Fulci's The Beyond. If broken and contradictory logic is going to bother you, you're going to be kicking a hole in your monitor. And for all the fun King brings to his work, there's also his usual flaws. In this case: hokey characters. DJ Liquid? The "you're cute" lady? The King Of the Internet? But it's also kind of charming in a "King's our lovable grandpa who writes these crazy stories" kinda way, and this film gets past them easily enough with plenty of fast paced action and shocking violence.

Other pros: Sam Jackson and John Cusack give their roles more weight than the script deserves. You actually care if they survive and worry for them in a way most lesser films don't manage. Stacy Keach shows up for a bit of fun, too. The story's also ambitious, playing with big ideas and isn't afraid to get pretty dark and cynical, which is nice to see in a more mainstream horror film with a name cast.

Other cons: Most of the down to Earth effects are fine (zombies, gore), but it tries to depict some very big things that clearly just aren't in its budget. There's a scene right in the very beginning where an airplane explodes, which they really should've left off-camera, because it really looks super fake. And some shots in the film's climax look like a cartoon.

Look, this is a heavy-handed movie for technophobes. Everyone who uses their cellphone turns into a mindless zombie. Characters walk through a brand new movie theater with a giant sign advertising "now with digital Projection," and then immediately into a drive-in movie lot. Keach gives a big dramatic reading to the line, "you can't stop progress, but you're never too old to fight it" before firing a bow and arrow. There's nothing subtle for miles around, and I'm sure we all know someone, probably older, who'll applaud the scene where people throw their smart phones into a fire, thinking finally someone else understands that change and technology are evil.

But for the rest of us, it's a pretty amusing, entertaining time so long as you're willing to not question anything it throws at you. Fast paced, loads of thrills, our protagonists walk around with armfuls of weapons and ammo; and yet the film takes itself seriously enough that it never starts to feel like a bad joke. Silly sure, but earnest. All it needed was a rockin' AC/DC soundtrack.

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