The Cell (2000) — Diving into the mind of a psychopath

“Do you believe there is a part of yourself, deep inside in your mind, with things you don’t want other people to see?”

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Justin’s rating: My mind would be a really weird vacation destination.

Justin’s review: In the past year or so, we’ve had two movies wrapped around the concept of one person literally going into another person’s mind. The first movie was the ever-weird and mostly lovable Being John Malkovich, and the second is The Cell. These movies always make me wonder intensely about what someone might find if they went into my mind. Here’s my guess:

  • A Lazyboy lounge chair with a remote
  • A complete back subscription to PC Gamer
  • Two dead gerbils (I could never keep those things alive)
  • A wastebasket for the gerbils, because who needs that kind of mess?

We deduce that a film based on going into my mind would largely consist of a guy sitting in my chair, reading my magazines, and wondering “What is that SMELL?” for about two hours. So New Line Cinema elected to go into the mind of a serial killer instead, which would be bad in and of itself, but this guy is also schizophrenic, which adds eight levels of weirdness when we get there.

First we have to contend with The Cell’s main detraction: It busies itself with backstory and how Mr. Bad Guy kills and what Jennifer Lopez is doing outside of a Maxim photo shoot and how the police are tracking the killings… and just doesn’t understand that we just want to get to the freaky head exploration! Seriously, this movie takes over 40 minutes to even get to this point, and that’s kind of frustrating.

But once we get there, what a ride! The Cell’s serial killer, who is a combination of clones from Se7en and Silence of the Lambs and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, doesn’t ever strike me as that, um, scary. I wish he was more so. At least his head is awfully freaky, and if you like having your date spill burning hot popcorn butter into your lap as he or she jumps in sheer terror, then boy is this the film for you. As psychiatrist Lopez noodles around in the bad guy’s noggin (under the pretense of trying to find out where his latest victim is being held), she gets to experience the wonder of a M.C. Escher painting gone bad. I’m not sure it has a wealth of deep meaning, exactly, but seeing a horse being vivisected while it’s still alive will pop back into your mind quite often (during dinner parties, for example).

Despite the somewhat slow pacing and the rather blah blah characters (ooh, Lopez smokes a doobie, that makes her interesting!), I liked The Cell. That’s a rather controversial comment to make, because this was one of the handful of strong love/hate films that divided America during 2000 (another being Unbreakable). If you’re like me, you’ll be forgiving of the weaker aspects while diving into the really lush imagery and enjoy this modern horror house tour. Some of the scenes and images are absolutely incredible and fascinating (in both good and not-so-good ways). If you’re like others (bad others! bad others!), you might be horribly disappointed. That’s okay too, but we’ll be in your heads soon enough.

And I think I speak for all of us when I say: When you’re exploring around a serial killer’s mind, DON’T PULL ANY LEVERS!

DnaError’s rating: Alice in Wonderland.. in HELL!

DnaError’s review: I may need serious therapy after this movie. Not because of the trippy, surrealistic, CGI-head trips, but because of the blistering star power of Jennifer Lopez. She is a Goddess sent down from Mt. Olympus to mingle with us petty mortals. A being of pure sexual angry that she must carry an umbrella when outside, lest pilots catch a glimpse and become dumb and dead on their controls.

Sarcasm aside, Jennifer Lopez (or, J. Lo as her publicist says she must be called upon threat of beheading) stars in The Cell, which is a movie that will seriously make you reconsider your visit to National Serial Killer Mind Park. I really liked this movie, if only because it gave me visuals I’ve never seen before… Indian Gilded Torture devices, Daliequse landscapes, floating women, scenes from kitzy tarot cards and game of “Spot The Reference” for all you art majors out there. Of course, the mind-bending, retina-detaching scenes make everything else in the movie seem washed out and dull, events in the real world while not totally incompetent and plodding, come off as a B-Level Silence of the Lambs.

All that stupid “character” and “plot” just gets in the way of seeing more of Jennifer Lopez Dorothy her way around a landscape that would make Tim Burton cry. From a pure eye-candy, watch-while-under-the-influence, whoa-my-mind-is-blown-stand point… this is a *very* good movie, perfect for late night DVD. If you expect things like deep characters and sweeping emotion….go away, I don’t want your germs on me.

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