As a fan of Stephen King, I was naturally going to grab this movie when I saw it. This is another movie based on a King novel. Directed by Tod Williams, this film stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, two actors that I found to have a unique on-screen chemistry in 1408, the movie adaptation of King’s short story of the same name. (My review of 1408 can be read HERE.)
John Cusack plays a man named Clay. He’s a middle-aged man who has essentially abandoned his family. Although he calls, he has not been home in quite some time and it is seemingly on purpose. Clay is a graphic novelist. He’s been travelling nonstop for months, flying from airport to airport.
Upon his arrival in Boston, Clay goes to call his family on his cell phone but, his phone is out of juice. In true modern fashion, there’s not an available outlet to charge his phone to be found. So, he chooses to go old school and use a payphone to make his call.
During this phone call, Clay witnesses something awful happen to those around him using their cell phones. They start to scream and shake violently, foam runs from their mouths and everyone seems to be overcome by some sort of homicidal rage, causing them to kill each other in a multitude of ways. Anyone who is on a cell phone is affected. Those NOT on cells remain normal. The affected people have now become some sort of zombie, infected with a mysterious signal from their phones.
Clay flees the airport. Outside the city looks like a war zone. There are damaged buildings, crashed cars, fires, dead bodies, just everything you can imagine in an apocalypse. He decides to take refuge in the city’s subway, where he finds some other survivors.
Amongst these non-infected people, called “normals”, he meets Tommy (Samuel L. Jackson). Tommy is a motorman on the subway and in charge of the train they all now find themselves on. Although they can’t take the train to leave the area, all electronics are shut down, they can WALK to safety. This is what Tommy suggests. While there are numerous people that think this to be a horrible idea, there are a few that go along with Tommy and Clay.
They head out to go to Clay’s apartment. Clay wants Along the way they have to fight their way through a “zombie riot” of sorts in which everybody in the group gets killed except Clay and Tommy.
Once they get to Clay’s apartment they meet Alice, one of Clay’s upstairs neighbors. Alice is in a small state of shock, she had to kill her mother when the cell phone virus swept across everything and infected her while she was on her phone. Clay lets her in and offers her the use of his shower, some clean clothes and food.
While holed up in Clay’s apartment they discuss their plan. Clay wants to get to his family to see if they are okay. Even though it’s unlikely that his family has not been infected (at least his wife), they still decide that’s the best idea and all three take off on the journey.
During this hike they come upon a prep school that has fallen victim to the same virus infection. The Headmaster of the school has taken charge and he has one of the students with him. This kid is very knowledgeable and interested in computers and robots, etc.
The Headmaster gives the group some very useful information. He has figured out that, at night, the zombies are in a sleep mode and are actually recharging like batteries. As they do this, nothing can wake them, they don’t feel anything, they don’t react to anything. Oh, and while they are “charging”, music is playing from their mouths, all the same music, all in sync, at the same time.
Now, the Headmaster has come up with a plan. There are hundreds of zombies gathered at the football stadium for the school. They are all lying on the ground “charging” for the night. The Headmaster wants to use the watering truck (the truck with the big sprayers for the field) to douse all of the zombies in gasoline and set them on fire to kill them. Unfortunately, the fire does actually wake some of the zombies and a battle at the stadium ensues. We lose the Headmaster but, the kid joins the group.
They move on, still on their way to Clay’s family and they meet a couple living in the woods. Ray and Denise are a little crazed. They are sleep deprived and both really on edge. After talking to Clay for a while, Ray decides to give Clay a cell phone. He tells him when the time is right, to call the number that he has attached to it. Clay doesn’t understand but, he doesn’t get a chance to try to clarify. Ray blows himself up.
Finally, once at Clay’s house, Clay finds a message on the fridge in children’s alphabet magnets. It says that the mom is gone, having become one of the zombies, and his son is headed for Kashwak, a supposed safe zone that they have been hearing about. However, there is some disagreement as to whether this will really be a safe NO PHONE area or if it’s some sort of a trick to get the rest of the survivors all in one place.
Now, during this whole ordeal, these survivors have all been dreaming about the same person when they sleep. A man in a red hoodie. Ray informed them that he was The President of the Internet. The man in charge of everything that is happening.
Clay decides he must go to Kashwak and leaves the others behind. When he gets there, he sees all the zombies herding mindlessly towards a huge cell phone tower. Clay then finds his son, who seems to have already been infected himself. In his despair of having lost his wife and son to the virus, he remembers the cell phone he was given. He gets close to the tower and holding his son in his arms, he dials the number. The tower explodes in a massive BOOM! and all seems right again.
Until you see Clay, mindlessly bobbing along, with the rest of the zombie herd.
Well, had this movie come out at the height of the cell phone craze, it would have been more effective. However, this was an okay film to watch. The idea that some sort of electronic pulse can nab us through the use of our cell phones and make us killing zombie machines isn’t an entirely unique idea. The thought is that we should stop using our cell phones so much, unplug and get back to living life. This is portrayed by the premise that our cell phones make us sick, an idea that is overly exaggerated in this story.
The fact that the plot isn’t one of King’s best doesn’t take away from the effort made on the part of both Cusack and Jackson, who still work very well together on screen.
It does need to be clarified that it can be, in my opinion, extremely difficult to adapt a King story to a movie. Stephen King is notorious for his attention to detail and in his books, while at the time you read a particular detail, it may seem insignificant, many of these small details are what truly makes the story a Stephen King story. A lot of that detail gets lost when translating it to film. So, I ty to go into these adaptations with an open mind.
Still, I thought this movie was worth watching at least once. I, personally, will be watching it again because it has a lot of little things that happen, many of which I did not cover here. I could recommend it to just about anyone, as I think it covers more genres than just horror. However, it wouldn’t be at the top of my list and I would probably emphasize that it is a Stephen King story, so again, there can be an open mind.