Credit where credit’s due: the first few minutes of Tod Williams’s thriller-horror, based on a Stephen King novel, are brilliantly unsettling. At Boston airport an estranged father, Clay (John Cusack), is calling home when his mobile runs out of power and he moves to a payphone.
Lucky him. Everyone on their mobile suddenly shudders violently, as if electrocuted, and turns insanely murderous, lashing out with fists and claws, kicks and stabs, blank-faced and mad.
Williams’s treatment of a quite interesting book is as confused and depressing as the blighted city itself, where everyone on a phone has had their brain zombified by who-knows-what (the film is woefully short on explanation). The ‘phoners’ move in flocks, dead-eyed, often with their mouths open in a death-gape uttering a sort of Nineties dial-up tone.
In Cell Williams’s treatment of a quite interesting book is as confused and depressing as the blighted city itself
Nice to see employment for ordinary-looking extras, but the flocking is mainly there to enable scenes of mass slaughter. Meeting a wise old Vietnam veteran Tom — Samuel L. Jackson, who ought to know better — Clay agrees with him that ‘if we gonna survive this, people gonna have ta put aside their finer sensibilities’.
On finding corpses in a house with ‘Right to Bear Arms’ slogans, they collect the guns and pump lead into anyone who looks — well — phon-ey.
The ending — if you stay that long — differs from the novel, but who cares? There are female corpses, a deeply nasty sexual moment, and bizarrely, a track of ‘You’ll never walk alone’.
Naff, lame, the film’s only function seems to give comfort to NRA gun nuts and anyone in the U.S. who longs to set odd-looking people on fire.