This one”s been a long time coming.
Stephen King is a genre unto himself at this point. A “Stephen King movie” can be anything from Stand By Me to Maximum Overdrive, and the only thing they all have in common is him as the original source of the material. It seems like a given at this point that if King publishes something, it will eventually be turned into a film. Some books just take longer than others to make the jump.
For example, Hulu just wrapped up 11.22.63, the eight-part adaptation of King”s time-travel story about trying to stop the murder of JFK from taking place. Co-produced by Bad Robot and starring James Franco, that was not the first attempt at cracking that adaptation. Jonathan Demme was the first director to try to take a crack at that one, and he was going to do it as a feature film. It”s not uncommon for a King property to change hands repeatedly during development. With Cell, for example, Eli Roth was the one first attached ten years ago. He was going to do it for Dimension FIlms at the time. Three years later, King talked about working on his own version of the script and working to take the conclusion of the book, one of his least popular endings, and rewrite it according to the feedback he”d gotten from readers over the years.
Tod Williams was the writer/director of one of the most interesting novel-to-film adaptations in recent memory, The Door On The Floor, which was taken from a John Irving novel. Williams only used the first third of A Widow For One Year, choosing to focus on one part of the story as a complete experience. He was one of the strangest choices in the Paranormal Activity series, directing Paranormal Activity 2 after his first three films were a teen comedy (The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole), the Irving adaptation which was a domestic drama, and Wings Over The Rockies, a documentary short. I”m curious why it”s been six years since PA2, his last film. This film has been in development in this form since at least 2009, and the script is credited to King and Adam Alleca, who co-wrote the Last House On The Left remake. The two leads, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, worked together previously in 1408, another King adaptation, and I like that film. It really depends on performance to work, since so much of the film was about a guy trapped in a single haunted hotel room. Keeping that lively was a huge challenge for Cusack as a performer, and he did a strong job in it.
The story here is that a pulse, sent through cell phones all over the world at the same time, turns everyone who heard it into a rabid killing machine. Cusack happened to not be on the phone at the time, and he begins a frantic struggle to stay alive and get to his son, which is pretty much the entire film. Both the book and the movie show Cusack”s character Clayton Riddell teaming up with Tom McCourt and Alice Maxwell, and Cusack is joined by Sam Jackson as Tom and Orphan star Isabelle Fuhrman as Alice. How closely they”ll stick to the film”s plot is unknown, but I”m guessing there will be some big changes. This one one of those King stories that had a great set-up and then a long slow fizzle of an ending. The idea that King knew it was a problem is encouraging, but Cusack”s been bad-mouthing the film for years when it is mentioned. It was filmed in 2013, and Cusack said last year that he had been cut out of the film for a while and had no idea what was happening with it. Even more disconcerting is Cusack”s assertion that King was also shut out of the process. I find that King is rarely the best judge of his own work and the adaptations of it, but once you start making the film with him, it sends a weird message that you then cut the author out of the process completely.
Dogged by money issues and distributor hijinks, Cell has taken a long time to get to the screen. Let”s see if all that time and effort will have been worth it. Lionsgate and Saban Films will release Cell in a staggered pattern.
Cell arrives on Ultra VOD on June 10, 2016.
Cell arrives in limited theatrical release and on VOD on July 8, 2016.