DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Cell: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Cell (2016) movie poster Cell

Theatrical Release: July 8, 2016 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Tod Williams / Writers: Stephen King (novel & screenplay); Adam Alleca (screenplay)

Cast: John Cusack (Clay Riddell), Samuel L. Jackson (Tom McCourt), Isabelle Fuhrman (Alice Maxwell), Owen Teague (Jordan), Clark Sarullo (Sharon Riddell), Anthony Reynolds (Ray Huizenga), Erin Elizabeth Burns (Denise Link), Stacy Keach (Charles Ardai), Ethan Andrew Casto (Johnny Ridell), Joshua Mikel (Raggedy), Griffin Freeman (Mike "DJ Liquid" Mattick), Lloyd Kaufman (Bystander)

Buy Cell from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD + Digital Instant Video

What a difference nine years can make. In 2007, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson starred in 1408, a haunted hotel thriller adapted from a Stephen King short story. The film opened in second place with a near 3,000 theater count and went on to gross $72 million domestic and $132 M worldwide on favorable reviews and a $25 M budget.
Nine years later, Cusack and Jackson reunite in another Stephen King adaptation. This one, Cell, barely made it to theaters in North America and was insignificant in the dozen or so foreign territories it played. It drew near-universal disapproval from critics, its 8% on Rotten Tomatoes making it one of the worst-reviewed films of this and any year. Now, two and a half months after beginning its minimal North American run, it hits Blu-ray and DVD looking like a direct-to-video B-movie.

Looks can be deceiving, but here they're just about right. Cusack stars as Clay Ridell, a graphic novelist who is traveling at the unnamed airport in Boston (where this Atlanta and New York production did not shoot). While there, after checking in with his ex-wife and son, Clay notices something bizarre happening. All of a sudden, people begin foaming at the mouth and trembling as if having a seizure. Only this isn't a rampant outbreak of epilepsy. The one thing the afflicted all had in common: each was talking on their cell phone. Something has happened which turns all these people into killing machines resembling hyper, bloodthirsty zombies.

Graphic novelist Clay Riddell (John Cusack) is at the Boston airport when things go strange in "Cell."

Clinging to the hope that his ex and son are still alive, Clay escapes to safety and teams up with airport subway driver and gay divorcee Tom McCourt (Jackson). The two take to the underground tracks along with a young DJ not long for this world. King's vision of apocalypse involves people being infected by a kind of virus or "pulse" through the cell phones. Landlines and text messages might save the day, if only the meltdown hadn't also sparked a widespread power outage.

Clay, Tom, and Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman), a young woman who has just killed her infected mother, search for safety. They find a private academy where a headmaster (Stacy Keach) and "scholarship boy" (Owen Teague) share their knowledge about their deadly nemesis. Acting upon the headmaster's ideas, Clay and Tom drive across a football field full of "phoners" (who for some reason are docile at night), dousing them with gasoline and setting them ablaze. But this is a short-term solution to a population-threatening problem.

Cell is every bit as ludicrous as it sounds. Has King, responsible for the stories at the foundation of such unsettling thrillers as The Shining, Carrie, Misery, Cujo, and Pet Sematary, as well as the riveting human dramas The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, and The Green Mile, really become this out of touch? While the book was published back in 2006, King can't really pass the blame to anyone else, as he shares a rare screenplay credit with Adam Alleca (2009's The Last House on the Left remake). Their script results in one of the most absurd movies I've ever seen.

Clay (John Cusack) and new friends DJ Liquid (Griffin Freeman) and Tom McCourt (Samuel L. Jackson) take to the underground railroad to escape the airport.

Cell is a paranoid Neo-Luddite nightmare, a secular Rapture movie, and a mindless zombie apocalypse all in one. It is in the vein of M. Night Shyamalan's much-maligned The Happening, only without even the modest human interest, character development, and effects budget of that 2008 film.
These characters are haunted by the image of an androgynous man with headphones in a red hoodie. They meet up with others, take brief shelter in a bar, and wonder whether graffiti's advice to seek safety in a place with no cell phone towers is a legitimate plan.

It is sad to see Cusack plummet la Nicolas Cage to such low-grade work. He's been an underappreciated fixture in Hollywood since the early 1980s and doesn't seem to have deserved such a grim fate, even if he hasn't made a truly good movie in a long time (probably since 1408). Jackson certainly had plenty of better job offers than this, some of which he took and some of which he must have passed on. Even on a brief hiatus from Marvel films, he'll have no difficulty rebounding from this toxic flop that nobody really saw. He's got Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children opening on Friday and four high-profile wide releases scheduled for next year including Kong: Skull Island and Vin Diesel's January xXx reboot.

Less likely to bounce back are screenwriter Alleca and director Tod "Kip" Williams, whose past credits include Paranormal Activity 2 and The Door in the Floor.

Too insignificant to even elicit a box office record from Saban Films, Cell reaches stores this week from Lionsgate in Blu-ray and DVD editions each fitted with digital copies in a corresponding definition.

Cell: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($19.98 SRP) and on Instant Video


Cell may not have played many theaters, had the backing of a major studio, or boasted a huge budget, but the movie looks sharp and polished on Blu-ray just the same. Lionsgate's 2.40:1 transfer is clean and vibrant. The soundtrack is lively as well, repeatedly distributing those cell phone horror sounds to maddening effect.

Joshua Mikel gets his extreme makeover into red-hooded dream-haunted Raggedy in "To 'Cell' and Back: Making the Film." The bodies of "phoners" burn, baby, burn on the "Cell" Blu-ray menu.


The Blu-ray's extras begin with an audio commentary by director Tod "Kip" Williams. It is just as awkward and uncomfortable as you expect: a man
talking by himself about the terrible film he made without acknowledging that it's terrible. He is informative and screen-specific, but also more than a little sad.

On the video side, there is "To Cell and Back: Making the Film" (12:04), whose talking head comments are the stuff of dreams, as cast and crew discuss the ideas as if they aren't off the wall. The laughable piece proceeds to touch on makeup, visual effects, and stunts.

"Also from Lionsgate" repeats the disc-opening trailers for Urge, American Heist, The Trust, Criminal, and Backtalk. Cell's own trailer is nowhere to be found.

The menu plays clips along with some staticky cell phone sounds. For some reason, the disc doesn't resume playback like other Lionsgate Blu-rays, although it does support bookmarks if your remote buttons are all still in order.

The lone insert supplies your Digital HD with UltraViolet code. The eco-friendly keepcase is topped by a slipcover reproducing the same artwork below.

Could landlines save the day in "Cell"? Clay Riddell (John Cusack) hopes so.


As I inch towards having seen a hundred 2016 releases, only one other film has been as bad as Cell. This perplexing apocalypse tale is dead on arrival, inviting derision with its ludicrous premise and haphazard execution. It has the decency to approach "so bad, it's good" status, but it will probably take a few decades to fully appreciate this as the ill-advised misfire it is.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray offers a fine feature presentation and decent extras, but this is one to avoid for anything but unintended laughs.

Buy Cell from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Hunt for the Wilderpeople Equals The Neon Demon
Adapted from Stephen King: Pet Sematary Cujo The Shining Misery | Directed by Tod Williams: Paranormal Activity 2
John Cusack: The Factory The Raven The Numbers Station The Paperboy The Grifters Grosse Pointe Blank
Samuel L. Jackson: The Hateful Eight The Spirit Jackie Brown Captain America: The Winter Soldier Avengers: Age of Ultron
Isabelle Fuhrman: Orphan The Hunger Games | Stacy Keach: Nebraska
World War Z The Happening The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season 28 Weeks Later

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed September 26, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 Saban Films, Benaroya Pictures, International Film Trust, 120dB Films, Cargo Entertainment, Genre Company, and Lionsgate.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.