Cell, based on the 2006 novel by Stephen King, follows Clayton Riddell, a graphic novelist grappling for survival in the aftermath of an apocalypse, triggered by a mobile phone emitted signal which transforms the world’s digitally-dependent population into mindless, telekinetic savages. It’s a ferocious satire on the digital age, bolstered by the support of John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson (who also paired up for the adaptation of King’s short story 1408), but the original text and its big screen reimagining fall short.
The gallows humour of King, who had a hand in co-writing the screenplay, is prevalent throughout the film. This, combined with the frenzied scenes of despair in the city sprawls and their isolated outskirts, make this a great contribution to the genre, emulating the notes of George A. Romero and Danny Boyle. What does arguably let the film down, however, is the sharpness of these shots, which can be considered a weakness of newer contributions like I Am Legend and World War Z.
Director Tod Williams has failed to create a Stephen King adaptation that can be treated with the same esteem as The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption and the grossly underrated Children of the Corn, but Cell is not King’s finest work either. He is no stranger to treating his readers to wackier, sometimes weaker storylines (Christine and Cujo instantly come to mind), however King is always able to optimise the plot utilising fluid, effortless prose and relatable characters, developed across an entire paperback.
Williams, unfortunately, is not afforded this literary luxury, but it would be wrong to consider his effort unsuccessful. Devotees to zombie apocalypse satire can rest assured that there is still a satisfying dose of bloody carnage to ingest. King cultists, meanwhile, will find the humour and originality of the author firmly intact, but perhaps only in fragments and flashes.
Samuel L. Jackson
FrightFest 25 August 2016
CINEMA & VOD
26 August 2016