There's always a shrill shiver that goes up my spine when I discover that a horror or thriller movie is actually based on a true story. I can't be the only one who gets freaked out, right? When a truly twisted and horrifying film is actually based on real life and real events that happened and could maybe, possibly happen to you, it's all I can think about. I usually end up sleeping with the lights on for at least a week. So, when I heard about the movie Cell, starring John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson, I immediately wondered: is Cell based on a true story, and if so, how am I gonna prepare?
Luckily, Cell is not a true story. It is, however, based on a novel written by Stephen King — which, if you know anything about the author, you know that it almost might be better if the movie was based on a true story. King is the author of some truly terrifying novels such as Carrie, The Shining, and It, and while not a true story, Cell may still keep me up at night.
Set in a present-day New England, Cell tells the story of a father, John Cusack, who along with his two companions (played by Samuel L Jackson and Isabelle Fuhrman) searches for his son after a "pulse" is sent out turning anyone using a cellphone into a "phoner." Confused? Don't be. In King's novel, "phoners" are "zombie-like" killers that develop psychic abilities. And the "pulse" is sort of an emission sent out through a cell tower that will target any cellphones being used at that current moment. Cusack's character, Clay, is separated from his son, Johnny, and journeys to find and rescue him, hopefully saving him from the phoners.
On a deeper level, King's novel speaks to the potential "dangers" of groupthink and what technology is doing to us all on a subconscious (or maybe conscious) level. It seems poignant that the method King chose to turn humans into phoners is technology, and more specifically, cellphones. I, like most people I know, am continuously on my phone to the point where sometimes it seems life passes you by while refreshing Instagram, but maybe that's King's point. Perhaps he wants us to recognize that if we don't look up once in a while, if we don't unplug and put our phones on DND, then we're all, eventually, going to turn into mindless zombies. Or maybe he thinks we already are?
While on the surface, Cell explores the classic horror/sci-fi struggle of man vs. zombie, it speaks to something deeper. It might not be based on a true story, but maybe it's a cautionary tale. I'm not saying we're all going to actually turn into mindless zombies with psychic powers, but we definitely might start to lose our own way and become too reliant on technology. Leave it to King to comment on society via scaring the crap out of us.
Images: Saban Films