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Cell is a 2016 American science fiction horror film based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Stephen King. The film is directed by Tod Williams, produced by John Cusack, with a screenplay by King and Adam Alleca. The film stars John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, and Isabelle Fuhrman. The film was released on June 10, 2016 to video on demand, prior to a limited release scheduled for July 8, 2016.[4] Cell is the second film adaptation of a King story to co-star Cusack and Jackson, after 1408 (2007).

Cell 2016 film poster 2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTod Williams
Produced by
Screenplay by

Matthew M Lyons

Based onCell
by Stephen King
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
CinematographyMichael Simmonds
Edited byJacob Craycroft
  • Benaroya Pictures[1]
  • International Film Trust
  • 120dB Films
  • Cargo Entertainment
  • The Genre Company[1]
  • Don Nafia
Distributed bySaban Films (US)[1]
Signature Entertainment (UK) [2]
Release date
  • June 10, 2016 (2016-06-10)
Running time
98 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Box office$1 million[3]

The film was panned by critics upon its release; most criticized the film's acting and plot.



Clayton "Clay" Riddell (Cusack) is a disillusioned artist, who a year earlier abandoned his wife, Sharon (Sarullo) and son, Johnny (Casto), in hopes of living his dream of publishing a graphic novel. At Boston International Airport, Riddell is attempting to board a flight in hopes of reconciling with his family. His cell phone battery dies and he's forced to use a pay phone to reconnect with Sharon. Suddenly an electronic signal is broadcast across mobile networks worldwide, cell phone users are instantly and dangerously re-programmed into rabid killers. Riddell manages to escape the chaos in the terminal, and is rescued by a group of survivors in a subway car. The train's driver Thomas "Tom" McCourt (Jackson) suggests abandoning the train and travelling through the tunnels, due to the power outage. Riddell agrees and, joined by a third man, attempts to escape the airport.

Near the tunnel's exit, their companion is stabbed to death by an infected man, later dubbed as "Phoners" and the two escape to the street above. Riddell leads Tom to his apartment to hide out and consider their options. That night the two are joined by Alice Maxwell (Fuhrman), a teenage neighbor of Riddell's who is in a blood soaked dress and confesses that she killed her mother in self-defense. The two take her in and decide to escape Boston.

Heading north through New England to find Sharon and Johnny, Riddell and the other two avoid the "Phoners" who have collectively ceased all violence to those infected, attacking only normal people. After acquiring weapons from a house, they encounter a single boy who is revealed to be a phoner. He is shot and killed, but a nearby flock chases the three to a nearby river. Hiding from the infected, they observe the flock (at sundown) emit mysterious signals from their mouth and then walk off as a group.

Eventually the three arrive at a private school with only two survivors remaining; Charles Ardai (Keach), the former headmaster, and a scholarship student, Jordan (Teague). Discussing the turn of events, Ardai posits that the "phoners" have developed a hive mind and are telepathic. He believes a war between the survivors of the "pulse" and the now-changed "phoners" is inevitable and suggests a first strike. He reveals to the others that a flock of hundreds of infected are now resting in the school's athletic field, some of whom are emitting signals from their mouth as they sleep. Ardai has a plan to use the stadium's gas pumps and a truck to douse the group and burn them. The others agree to help with the plan.

The plan goes fine, with Riddell and Tom driving over the unaware "phoners" who are then set ablaze by Ardai. A number of the phoners attempt to flee the flames, but are shot dead by the others. Unfortunately a line of fire back to the truck causes it to explode, killing Ardai in the process. The group (now joined by Jordan) resume their pilgrimage north. Taking shelter in an abandoned drive-in theater, the four all dream about a raggedy looking man in a red hoodie (Mikel).

Days later they notice a cryptic sign "Kashwak = No-fo" and encounter a group of survivors in a roadside bar. It is revealed that Kashwak is a state park in Maine, and the group tell Riddell and the others that there is no cell service out there. The bar survivors indicate a plan to travel there, and Riddell's group agree to accompany them. They spend the night relaxing and partying within the bar. Later the next morning Sally (Dyer) is awoken and then infected by a group outside, who can now transmit the pulse through their mouths. The group attacks Tom and Jordan. Tom is attacked by an infected being. Alice saves him by shooting it dead twice. She is then bludgeoned in the head by Sally's bat. Tom fatally shoots Sally. The group takes Alice outside to a tree to rest where she succumbs to her head wound.

Moving on, the group next encounter Ray Huizenga (Reynolds) and Denise (Burns). They reveal that Kashwak is in fact a trap set by Raggedy Man. Ray confides in Riddell that he has planted explosives in his truck, and wants Riddell to go to Kashwak to detonate it. Ray kills himself to stop the Raggedy Man from reading his mind. The group make it to Sharon's house and find that Sharon has already turned into a "Phoner". Riddell finds a note by Johnny on the refrigerator stating that he is in Kashwak park. Riddell orders the others to continue north while he drives alone to Kashwak, intent on locating Johnny. At the park Riddell finds thousands of "phoners" running in a giant circle around a massive communications tower with the Raggedy Man waiting in the center. Riddell kills him, then begins to hear his son calling to him amongst the flock of people. Riddell fails to locate him and as he resolves to go through with the plan, Johnny appears before him. Riddell's son attempts to infect him with the signal, but he triggers the explosives in the truck blowing up the tower, and killing himself as well as the others.

It is then revealed that the explosion was an illusion. Riddell, in fact, has been infected by the pulse and is running in the circle around the tower. It is also revealed that the Raggedy Man is still alive, and watching over the running crowd.


  • John Cusack as Clayton "Clay" Riddell
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Thomas "Tom" McCourt
  • Isabelle Fuhrman as Alice Maxwell
  • Clark Sarullo as Sharon Riddell
  • Ethan Andrew Casto as Johnny Riddell
  • Owen Teague as Jordan
  • Stacy Keach as Charles Ardai
  • Joshua Mikel as Raggedy
  • Anthony Reynolds as Ray Huizenga
  • Erin Elizabeth Burns as Denise
  • Jeffrey Hallman as Hog Tied Man
  • Mark Ashworth as Bartender
  • Wilbur Fitzgerald as Geoff
  • Catherine Dyer as Sally
  • E. Roger Mitchell as Roscoe
  • Alex ter Avest as Chloe
  • Gaby Layner as Maddy
  • Rey Hernandez as Cop (Rick)
  • Frederick C. Johnson Jr as Cop's Partner
  • Michael Beasley as Construction Worker
  • Tom Key as Older Man
  • Angela Davis as Blood Stained Woman
  • Griffin Freeman as Teenager/Mike
  • Lloyd Kaufman as Bystander


The film is based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Stephen King. Dimension Films announced in March 2006 that Eli Roth would direct the project after finishing Hostel: Part II.[5] Roth exited the project in 2009, saying:

There was just sort of a difference in opinion on how to make the film and what the story should be, and there's a different direction the studio wants to go with it. It was very friendly because it's the Weinsteins, they made Inglourious Basterds and we're all friends. I said, 'I'm not really interested in doing the film this way. You guys go ahead and I'm going to make my own films.' I've also learned that I really am only interested in directing original stories that I write, that's another thing I learned through that whole process.[6]

Following Roth's departure, ScreenRant noted that the film "faded into the background";[7] however, in 2013 Tod Williams was announced as the director which brought the film back on track.[7] King stated that because fans didn't like the ending of the book, he had changed it for the film.[8]


John Cusack was the first actor announced to have joined the film in October 2012.[9] Samuel L. Jackson was cast as Tom McCourt in November 2013.[10] Isabelle Fuhrman was announced as Alice on February 5, 2014.[11] The next day, Stacy Keach was cast in an unnamed role of a headmaster.[12]

Filming took place in January 2014 over 25 days in Atlanta, Georgia.[13]


In February 2015, the producers of the film announced that Clarius Entertainment had acquired distribution rights.[14] The company, now called Aviron Pictures, later dropped the film.[15] Saban Films later acquired distribution rights to the film.[16] It was to receive its world premiere at FrightFest as part of the Glasgow Film Festival but was replaced at the last minute by Pandemic.[17] The film was released on June 10, 2016, to video on demand, prior to opening in a limited release on July 8, 2016.[1]


Cell was panned by critics.[18] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 12% based on 50 reviews and an average score of 3.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Shoddily crafted and devoid of suspense, Cell squanders a capable cast and Stephen King's once-prescient source material on a bland rehash of zombie cliches."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 38 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[20] Bob Grimm of CV Independent wrote that the movie "is easily one of the worst adaptations ever of a King story."[21] Arts BHAM's Corey Craft called the film "dull", "a trial to get through" and gave it 1​12 stars out of 5.[22] Nico Lang of Consequence of Sound wrote that Cell wasted an intriguing premise and called the film "unnecessarily glum and grim," as well as "pretty dumb."[23] Patrick Cooper of Bloody Disgusting called it a "forgettable adaptation" and further stated that "the story packs absolutely no punch and the solid stable of actors look bored for most of the film."[24]


  1. ^ a b c d Evry, Max (April 26, 2016). "Cell Trailer and Poster: John Cusack & Samuel L. Jackson & Zombies". CraveOnline Media. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "CELL (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  3. ^ "Cell (2016)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  4. ^ Miska, Brad (April 26, 2016). "The 'CELL' Trailer Rings in a Zombie-esque Apocalypse!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael (March 7, 2006). "Dimension hits speed dial". Variety. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  6. ^ Douglas, Edward. "Eli Roth Not Involved with Hostel III". ShockTillYouDrop. Archived from the original on July 11, 2009. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  7. ^ a b VIEIRA, Anthony. "Stephen King 'Zombie' Film 'Cell' To Be Directed by 'Paranormal Activity 2' Helmer". Screenrant. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  8. ^ Brunton, Richard (November 13, 2009). "Stephen King wrote Cell screenplay". Filmstalker. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  9. ^ Kay, Jeremy (October 31, 2012). "John Cusack to star in Cargo's Stephen King adaptation Cell". Screen Daily. Screen International. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  10. ^ McClintock, Pamela (November 4, 2013). "AFM: Samuel L. Jackson Joins Cast of 'Cell'". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  11. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (February 5, 2014). "Isabelle Fuhrman Joins Stephen King's 'The Cell'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  12. ^ McNary, Dave (February 6, 2014). "Berlin: Isabelle Fuhrman, Stacy Keach Join Stephen King Adaptation 'Cell'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  13. ^ Fletcher, Rosie (February 18, 2016). "Cell is set to give a signal boost to a new kind of zombie movie". GamesRadar+. Future Publishing. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  14. ^ Logan, Elizabeth (February 5, 2015). "Clarius Entertainment Acquires 'Cell,' Starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  15. ^ "Stephen King's Cell No Longer Has US Distribution". Box Office Flops. December 10, 2015. Archived from the original on April 7, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  16. ^ "Cell (2016)". Film Ratings. Classification & Ratings Administration. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  17. ^ Unsworth, Martin (January 22, 2016). "PANDEMIC Added to Film4 FrightFest Glasgow". Starburst. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  18. ^ Calvario, Liz (June 14, 2014). "'Cell' Review Roundup: Critics Agree That The Stephen King Adaptation Is Unimpressive". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  19. ^ "Cell (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  20. ^ "Cell Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  21. ^ Grimm, Bob (June 14, 2014). "'Cell' Wastes Stephen King's Plot While Illustrating the Decline of John Cusack's Career". Coachella Valley Independent. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  22. ^ Craft, Corey (June 11, 2014). "FILM REVIEW: 'Cell'". artsBHAM. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  23. ^ Lang, Nico (June 13, 2014). "A Stephen King adaptation that starts promising and devolves into nonsense". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  24. ^ Cooper, Patrick (June 13, 2014). "Stephen King's 'Cell' Is Another Forgettable Adaptation". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved June 15, 2016.

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