Cell | Stephen King’s apocalyptic horror thriller gives John Cusack & Samuel L Jackson a wake up call

John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson get a wake-up call when mobiles turn people into zombies in this adaptation of Stephen King's bestselling 2006 novel.

Stephen King's Cell John Cusack Samuel L Jackson

Based on Stephen King‘s best-selling 2006 novel Cell, this apocalyptic horror thriller is a movie that will appeal less to fans of the genre than to technophobic grumps who reckon mobile phones turn people into mindless zombies.

That happens to be the crisis confronting John Cusack’s struggling graphic novelist Clay when he arrives at Boston airport and attempts to call his estranged wife and young son. Luckily for him, his phone battery runs out of juice just before a mysterious electronic pulse turns all the phone users around him into homicidal maniacs.

Escaping the mayhem, he hooks up with fellow survivors Tom (Samuel L Jackson) and Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman) and leads them on a cross-country trek towards his old home, picking up an impressive arsenal of weapons en route. The trio are ‘like bugs who had the dumb luck to avoid the stomp of the giant’s boot’, in the words of Jackson’s phlegmatic Tom, but staying alive in a world overrun by rabid ‘phones’ proves a perilous business.

Stephen King's Cell John Cusack Samuel L Jackson Isabelle Fuhrman

“The devil’s intercom”

There is something genuinely unnerving about this scenario, but the movie doesn’t make the most of it, despite being co-written by King himself. Clay and his companions are unrealistically quick to adjust to the story’s cataclysmic events and they pick up the rules of the phoners’ evolving behaviour – first flocking like birds and then developing a hive-mind – with implausible alacrity, as well.

Yet the film’s opening scene delivers quite a charge and the ambiguous ending is equally powerful, while the stuff in between will confirm the prejudices of anyone who reckons that mobiles are – as Stacy Keach’s beleaguered headmaster puts it here – ‘the devil’s intercom’.

Certificate 15. Runtime 93 mins. Director Tod Williams

Stephen King’s Cell debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on Sunday 5 February and is available on Blu-ray & DVD from Signature Entertainment.

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