Stephen King’s books are a minefield for filmmakers. His prose is so persuasive, it’s easy to overlook the fact that many of his concepts are totally bananas (try the scene in ‘It’ where a bunch of children have sex in a cave). The best King adaptations tone down the crazy and focus on the author’s rocket fuel narrative genius. The worst swallow the book wholesale then vomit it back all over the screen. And with the notable exception of alien-invasion shocker ‘Dreamcatcher’ – truly one of the most awful films ever made – this might the pukiest King movie yet.
To be fair, the book wasn’t up to much. Like a watered down cover version of King’s masterpiece ‘The Stand’, ‘Cell’ sees the world turning to hell when cellphone signals transform everyone into flesh-eating crazies. John Cusack plays Clay, a regular guy who survives the initial freakout and travels cross country with new buddy Tom (Samuel L Jackson, pleasingly plain-spoken) hunting for the source of the killer signal.
What follows is basically ‘The Happening’ with phones, a meaningless and misguided parade of feeble effects, unscary scares and laughably earnest scenes of bizarro exposition. There are times when ‘Cell’ feels like a surreal pastiche of po-faced apocalypse movies. But no such luck: this is every bit as bad as it appears.