CELL (2016) Reviews and overview

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Cell is a 2016 American science fiction horror film directed by Tod Williams (Paranormal Activity 2). The film, scripted by Stephen King and Adam Alleca (The Last House on the Left), is based on King’s 2006 novel of the same name.

Main cast:

John Cusack (The Raven), Samuel L. Jackson (Oldboy), Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), Miko Hughes and Stacy Keach (The Mountain of the Cannibal God; Roadgames). Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman has a cameo role as a bystander.



New England artist Clay Riddell (John Cusack) witnesses to an ugly phenomenon: a mysterious signal broadcast over the global cell phone network turns the majority of his fellow humans into mindless vicious animals. Now he and a few survivors must find and stop ‘the pulse’ and the person controlling it and reunite with his young son before it’s too late…


” … lurks about 20 years behind the perceptions that drove a film like Ringu, doesn’t summon much more than Keach staring out over the mass of zombies as he solemnly intones, “They may be the next stage of human evolution.” That’s a line right out of the 1950s.” Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Cell was a massive disappointment. The source novel was released in 2006, and the film feels at least 7 or 8 years too late. The amount of quality zombie material that has been released since then, such as hit TV series The Walking Dead, makes Cell feel like a second rate B movie…” Kriss Pickering, UK Horror Scene

“On screen, Cell is diverting enough, provided one can forgive its chintz factor and just key into its Walking Dead moodiness. But it’s not a good sign when a movie leaves you wishing that Eli Roth had directed it instead.” A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club

“Not a polished work of filmmaking. Some of the nighttime scenes are so poorly lit it’s difficult to tell what’s happening. The editing is ragged and adds to the confusion. More than a few of the supporting performances are embarrassingly amateurish.” Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times


“It does have its ultra-dark comic moments (Clay literally pries a gun from an NRA member’s cold, dead hand) and the way the unthinking undead communicate with their malevolent cellular overlords is unsettling when it’s first introduced. But even a scene of terrifying mass murder is rendered pedestrian by all the conventional turns that lead it there.” Steve Greene, IndieWire

“For a cautionary tale issued well past its prime, Cell isn’t bad. More a leisurely paced, character-driven drama with horror elements than an outright thriller … Besides, there’s mild amusement to be had watching people shuffle around like violent zombies as a result of cell phone usage.” Odie Henderson, RogerEbert.com

“The effects and production values are good by indie standards, but under eventual director Tod Williams (Paranormal Activity 2) – Eli Roth had at one time been attached – the action veers towards zombie pastiche more often than it achieves a satisfying creepiness. The familiarity of the situations, especially in the wake of TV’s more stylishly staged The Walking Dead, sometimes causes the film feel cheesier than it really is.” John Hazelton, Screen Daily

“Even if it weren’t cheap-looking and dreary, Cell would still be hobbled by an entertainment landscape already lousy with zombies, and a hive-mind premise that — at least metaphorically — has been all but realized.” Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times

” … this is a film which knows what you expect and goes against it several times.  This allows for shocks and surprises, but also lets a numbed, cumulative sense of loss set in. As in The Birds and the Romero zombie films, there’s debate about the cause but no real solution – and the characters have to work out the rules rather than understand what’s going on.” The Kim Newman Web Site

“Nowhere near as bad as many reviews will have led you to believe (thank goodness), this starts well… Sadly, the film is saddled with a weak script that could have done with some ruthless editing (that whole Stacy Keach bit needed to go) and some extra bits to help it all make a bit more sense.” John Llewellyn Probert, House of Mortal Cinema

Cast and characters:

  • John Cusack … Clay Riddell
  • Samuel L. Jackson … Tom McCourt
  • Isabelle Fuhrman … Alice Maxwell
  • Clark Sarullo … Sharon Riddell
    Miko Hughes … Steve Maxwell
  • Stacy Keach … Charles Ardai
  • Alex ter Avest … Chloe
  • Catherine Dyer … Sally
  • E. Roger Mitchell … Roscoe
  • Griffin Freeman … Mike Mattick
  • Rey Hernandez … Officer Rick
  • Joshua Mikel … Raggedy

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