A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cell is a horror/zombie movie based on a Stephen King novel. There are several shocking/horrifying, cringe-worthy moments as people turn into zombies, then lots more zombie violence. Expect shootings, stabbings, dead bodies, explosions, and tons of blood. There's one moment of suggested sexuality (a woman shown in a position that implies she's performing oral sex on a man). Language isn't terribly frequent but does include uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters drink frequently and fairly heavily, sometimes becoming drunk; it seems to be their way of dealing with the stress of their situation. There's also some cigarette smoking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In CELL, graphic novel artist Clay Riddell (John Cusack) arrives at the airport in Boston, having just landed a book deal. He calls his estranged wife and son and decides he wants to see them. Unexpectedly, a strange signal starts emitting from all cell phones, turning their users into ravenous zombies. Clay manages to escape with subway train driver Tom (Samuel L. Jackson) and finds a distraught neighbor in his building, Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman). The trio hits the road for Maine in hopes of finding Clay's family still alive. Along the way, they discover that the zombies (or "phoners") are exhibiting strange behavior, flocking together and somehow signaling each other, which makes the journey far more dangerous than expected.
Is it any good?
This aggravating, confusing zombie thriller now has the dishonor of being arguably the worst movie ever made based on a Stephen King novel. Others have nominated Maximum Overdrive, Graveyard Shift, and The Mangler for that "honor," but those three movies are at least ridiculous and fun; Cell reaches a new low, feeling somehow displaced from anything resembling humanity. In trying to send a message about people spending too much time on their technological devices, the movie itself winds up feeling impersonal and awkward.
Interestingly, stars Cusack and Jackson previously appeared together in a superior King adaptation, 1408 (2007), but they don't build on any kind of shared chemistry here; they almost seem like they're in separate movies. King himself co-wrote the screenplay, and Tod Williams directs with a shaky-cam technique that's both lifeless and annoying. It's as if the movie were made by cell-phone zombies rather than actual people who've experienced social interaction.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? What's the difference between scary and gory? What's the appeal of horror movies?
What does the movie have to say about cell phones and other technology and the way we interact with them?
If you've read the book Cell is based on, how does it compare? How does it compare to other movies based on Stephen King books?
According to the headmaster character, a world of zombies would be better in some ways. Do you agree?
- In theaters: July 8, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: September 27, 2016
- Cast: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman
- Director: Tod Williams
- Studios: Saban Films, Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, terror, brief sexuality and language
For kids who love scares
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.