Movie Review: Stephen King’s Cell


With great technology comes great responsibility, or something like that. Perhaps I’m paraphrasing something of greater importance and meaning, but then again so is the film version of Cell. Master of horror Stephen King has lent his stories to multiple different mediums, with an emphasis on film and television. They tend to range from spine-chilling to socially conscious to mediocre. Cell is that rare film that attempts to be a triple threat relying too heavily on its fleeting social commentary, but is only actually scary in how mediocre of a representation the film is to the source material.

Samuel L Jackson and John Cusack reunite in another tale from Stephen King’s catalog, but this time with a much less haunting presence and a drastically diminished capacity. The electric chemistry they displayed before is turned down to a murmur as they struggle to create any definition to their dull characters. This does give a chance for characters (and actors) like Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman) and Charles (Stacy Keach) to steal the spotlight and make you wish they were on-screen longer. As it stands, Cusack and Jackson’s performances feel spiritless and phoned-in.

Much like the ‘phoners’ (cellularly zombified citizens) in the film, Cell is an unrecognizable husk of the Stephen King novel it is based off. Several key elements, such as a structured ‘phoner’ hierarchy and the involvement of psychic abilities get completely scrapped in place for a more “realistic”, melancholic tone. Realistic of course being a relative term considering the whole film comes off as the future you’re grandparents keep nagging you was coming. I could hear the voice of my grandfather grumbling about how this generation are basically zombie slaves to their phones and technology.  The film’s recurring social commentary quickly loses steam as it shambles into a somber slow-burn that never really pays off.

Paranormal Activity 2 director Tod Williams doesn’t quite know how to handle this story because the story itself is vague and meandering. As a result, the pacing follows a similar path as it takes the form of a slow-burn film minus any payoff. The true evil in this film comes from the screenplay, and novice The Last House on the Left writer Adam Alleca is only partially to blame. The brunt of the responsibility for the tonal and narrative failures of Cell come from content creator and co-screenplay writer Stephen King for allowing, and taking part in, the absolute corruption of his original story. Since he was a c0-writer to the story and script, it means that he knew approved or had a hand in making the monumental changes that drastically deviate from his novel. If every work of art created is considered a child to the artist, then King is guilty of child abuse and endangerment,

Cell offers little to keep your full attention so the temptation to find something more interesting on your phone is stronger than normal. The real battle with the film involves it fruitlessly fighting to keep your attention even with every element pushing you towards checking your Twitter. The irony of feeling this is not lost on me, but perhaps the film’s message is less of a warning and more of a self-fulling prophecy.

Rating: ★★ (2/10 stars)

Jon would say that as a writer, he is a self-proclaimed film snob and a pop culture junkie. Always gives his honest, critical, and maybe a little bit snarky opinion on everything. He's very detail oriented and loves anything involving creativity and innovation. You're better off asking him who his favorite director is rather than his favorite film. So beware and get ready to be entertained. You can contact him at or follow him on twitter @DystopianHero. (Also, he doesn't always refer to himself in the third person, but sometimes he just has to).
  • frampton jonathan

    It’s a shame really. The book was so clever and King definitely made it pay off. When I first heard this was being adapted for the big screen I was excited. Then I heard they cast John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson in the leading roles! Even better! Things continued to look good for this adaptation. But alas, the execution was just terrible. There was no feeling from the cast at all. (at least the leads) The ending (no spoilers) was just laughable. Even the movie poster looks like a terrible B movie John Cusack has been showing up in lately. I agree, Stephen King was there! He could have saved this. Why he chose to go this route, I’ll never know. Oh well…. I might as well just read the book again. One thousand times more interesting!

  • Nora Chompunich

    Ok so most of the reviews I have read online for this movie were horrible and I guess you really have to analyze it with intellect.

    Use your intelligence guys…Stephen King is a genius!
    At first glance the movie seems horrible, and cheesy…but don’t take it for its surface value. I believe that Stephen king’s screen adaptation is deeper than what it may seem. The hooded devil guy represents a leader of the mindless masses consumed with the media. They are flocking and following the violent and insane behaviours.

    The center of the main cell tower is at a place called “Kashwak” a play on the words CASHWHACK. Where money is king on Capitol Hill.

    Take it for what you may interpret…but in the end I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that he is taking his Son to Canada…and the spray painted initials TJD just happens to be Donald J Trump backwards.