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John Cusack stars as Clay Riddell, an artist. We first meet Riddell as he is awaiting his flight at Logan Airport. He's on his cell phone yabbering to his estranged wife and son, with whom he expects to be with soon. Clay's phone battery dies and he takes to using a pay phone instead. Soon after pretty much everyone at the airport is going mental, dribbling lots and turning into bloodthirsty creatures. John Cusack does what John Cusack does best, he stands open-mouthed, as a badly edited 'zombie' carnage takes place around him.
Rather than lapse into understandable shock, Riddell toddles off to New England, by foot, to find his family. Along the way he bumps into other people, primarily so the plot has characters to dispose of, who seem happy to put their lives in danger, so that Riddell can locate his family. With little else, apart from sheer guesswork, Riddell and his small entourage, including Samuel L. Jackson as Tom, reason that an electronic signal, broadcast across mobile networks worldwide, has resulted in turning mobile/cell phone users into killers, nicknamed 'phoners'. What does it all mean? Will Clay find his family? And do we care? No!
When Cell, the novel, came out in 2006 Dimension Films bought the rights to adapt it into a film. It looked like the then-still-piping-hot Eli Roth would direct. Just forward a couple of years later and Roth had walked from the project citing a difference of opinion in terms of how the film should be with the studio. The film did get made (obviously, I'm reviewing it) but it failed to find a distributor, sitting on the shelf for a good couple of years, before anyone was brave enough to release it.
I had issues with the source material. It wasn't one of author Stephen King's better efforts. It opened sensationally and had me gripped initially, but that grip loosened quickly when I realised that King's book was all concept with little afterthought as to how the larger story would pan out. That's how it read to me anyhow. Unsurprisingly director Tod (The Door in the Floor) Williams' film version of a disappointing Stephen King book is equally as disappointing.
Elliot Baker (Joel Kinnaman) is down on his luck, having recently been divorced and lost his job. For a fleeting moment, Elliot's downward spiral appears to be in reverse when the opportunity to build better relations with his two boys arises - his ex-wife Karen (Rachelle Lefevre) is leaving them both in his care as she heads off for a winter holiday with her new husband. It's clear straight away that there's evidently friction between Elliot and his oldest boy Bradley (Tom Holland), who questions everything his patriarch figure suggests, whereas Caleb (Percy Hynes White) is happy to go along with anything his old man suggests they do.
Things take a turn for the worse when the threesome end up stranded in a deserted cabin, following a brutal winter storm and their car being trashed in an accident. If that wasn't enough drama, Elliot now learns that his boys will be moving to London very soon, the news of which tips his sanity over the edge, he doesn't want to lose his boys and he'll do whatever he can to keep them from leaving his charge.
Snow, isolation, father-son relationships goes awry, Edge of Winter sounds like Kubrick's The Shining doesn't it, however there's no 'Here's Johnny' here or Room 237 here. Edge of Winter. Written and directed by Robert Connolly, Edge of Winter is a different kind of beast, albeit also about a dad losing his marbles. It's a stripped back, lean, mean, emotional machine of a movie, more poignant because it feels real. The film's thrust is psychological so those looking for a generic thriller, or needing to have things unnecessarily spelt out, really need to look elsewhere.
As a youngster I was captivated by the TV advertisement for director Don Coscarelli's 1979 horror flick Phantasm. It was brief but effective. It's night-time and the eponymous Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) looms over an open grave. In the open grave lies young Mike (Michael Baldwin) wondering where the fuck he is. Mike is soon swamped by hooded little people and the TV spot ends with the title of the film. I hadn't a clue what the film was about but I knew I had to see it.
No sooner had our family conceded to the early Eighties need to have a video recorder than I was cycling up to the local video library to rent the title, and get a better idea of what on earth was going on in that trailer. What unfolded in front of me made very little sense to my young mind; a woman morphs into the Tall Man following sex, flying metallic spheres drill into victim's heads and there's a weird buzzing-flying-furry thing that was once severed fingers in a box. Bonkers stuff, however I've revisited the film a couple of times since, always drawn back by nostalgia rather than a fondness for the material.
Phantasm was a modest financial success, upon its release, and inevitably spawned a franchise but, much like the Hellraiser series, the sequels added little, the original film should have been left to stand alone. Instead the subsequent movies unravel any goodwill afforded the original and tie themselves up in opening up the mythology in a half-cocked manner that weakness the first film's mystique.
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