Sunday, October 21, 2018
31 Days of Dread--Day 21
The Cell; 2000; written by Mark Protosevich; directed by Tarsem Singh
I don't know why Tarsem Singh hasn't made another film that even comes close to his feature debut.
On its surface, The Cell is a serial-killer police procedural. The somewhat improbable cast stars Jennifer Lopez as as a child psychologist, Vince Vaughn as a detective, and Vincent D'Onofrio as the brilliantly twisted killer who's constructed an elaborate puzzle for the other two to solve before he claims his next victim.
But just beneath that surface is a science-fiction thriller about a technology that enables two or more people to share the same subconscious reality. Only it comes with a dangerous caveat: if you think something's real, it can have the same effect as reality, including the ability to kill you.
And still further down, there's the gorgeous and lurid heart of The Cell, a series of stunning visuals and bizarre set pieces unlike anything seen before or since--a brilliantly executed mix of Joel-Peter Witkin's grave-dusty S&M and David LaChapelle's high-sheen glamour. They make even the strangest stuff from the Davids Cronenberg, Fincher and Lynch look unimaginative in comparison.
Singh got his start with commercials and music videos (his work for R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" was especially feted) and has gone on to direct Immortals, Mirror Mirror and NBC's series Emerald City. But none of his subsequent work has matched The Cell for its wealth of visual invention.
It's been 18 years since Tarsem Singh has let his imagination run wild, and that's too long. One of the premium channels needs to give him a blank check and the promise of creative control.
The Cell is available on Amazon Prime and streaming rental.