What happened to "Cell"?
One of the most awaited premieres of the summer – Stephen King’s The Cell – was on July, 8. On this very day movie critic Odrie Hendeson, who writes for Rogerebert, complained that the screen version butchered the main idea of the novel. Other reviews were much more negative.
The main character, the author of the graphic novels, Clyton (John Cusack), and his new acquaintance Thomas, find themselves among the few survivors of the “zombie apocalypse. Clyton is trying to bring back his son, whereas Thomas struggles just to survive.
As in many other of his works King turns our deepest fears into literary masterpieces or at least sound novels. It may be UFOs as in The Tommyknockers, or the clown in It, or the death of a loved one in Pet Sematary. In Cell, the fear of the modern means of communication, sometimes dangerous and ubiquitous, cell phones is the main plot point.
It is not common knowledge that Stephen King is a successful screenwriter as well as an author. For the last fifteen years he’s been concentrating on the screen versions of his novels, although he is no newcomer to the field. The good old The Stand mini-series serves an example of this. “Want to have something done well. Do it yourself! “The King of the horror stories has been using this slogan since Stanley Kubrick screened his The Shining,much to the author’s distaste.
With Cell this is not the case.
King – as it has happened to him before – was not lucky with the choice of director.
Initially, Dimension Films hired Eli Roth – the young and talented director and screenwriter – who is famous for his bloody thriller Hostel (his original script) and also played “the Bear Jew” in Inglourious Basterds.
But something went wrong, and Roth was replaced by Tod Williams whose only achievement over several decades was a sequel to Paranormal Activity, which surely demanded zero creativity. His other two films went unnoticed.
However, it is the studios these days that has the final word. That is how the second screenwriter, Adam Alleck – even less experienced than Williams, who has written no original scripts in his career– came to the scene. Assigning “a studio man to a well-known author in order not to let the latter go wild – he was an overseer, to call a spade a spade – is the new trend.
Actually, there was no catastrophe. Steven King’s hand is felt in this horror movie that is far ahead of others in its league. It does not contain a single scream! Which is something unbelievable these days.
It surely would have taken a lot of effort to spoil the novel, and the director did his best not to do so, with a real crowd of people present in the film and the camera shaking all the way to the final scene, which reminds one of a PC game from the 90’s.
Even though the plot is something we’ve already seen, this is not another zombie saga. The actor’s direction is horrible as in other horror films, but the plot turns make us shiver in a way we are not used to.
King again has had bad luck with the choice of director, as was the case with his much more brilliant novel 11/22/1963 which is now a TV mini-series. This is not the first case of this. When compared to other horror films recently released Cell has no match when it comes to its plot.
It can’t be considered a masterpiece, but if you must opt for a horror film, then choose Cell.
A more skillful director would have made it better (with the same actors and cast), but this is the only thing that will leave you craving more.