Tarsem Singh's The Cell wasn't a particularly good movie, but damnit if it wasn't pretty. The director's style-over-substance approach made an otherwise silly and saccharine sci-fi/serial killer flick palatable thanks to hallucinatory special effects, incredible set design, and Singh's own flair for dynamic and dramatic visuals. It was a slice of B-movie cheese transformed into a piece of moving art (both literally and figuratively), and, despite the film's myriad mechanical flaws, still has a devoted cult following amongst cineastes and stoners alike.
The direct-to-DVD abomination, The Cell 2, is a hilariously misguided attempt to cash-in on said following. A sequel in name only, The Cell 2 introduces us to a serial killer named "The Cusp"; a hooded madman who kills his victims, resuscitates them, and kills them again...and again...and again. He carries out his misdeeds in a shadowy dungeon/lab straight out of the Saw films, replete with torture chair, flickering monitors, and an arsenal of archaic medical devices. Just so we know he means business, the lab is drenched in spooky multicolored theatrical lighting, made all the more ominous by ample use of a smoke machine. It's a set straight out of a 1970's Hammer Horror flick. All that's missing are an iron maiden and a couple of those lightning balls you get at Spencer Gifts.
Anyway, the film centers on Maya Casteneda (Tessie Santiago, whose overly earnest expressions call to mind a Latina Sandra Bullock frozen in the headlights of oncoming traffic), the only victim to have ever escaped from The Cusp's lair of doom. Maya has developed a psychic abilities as a result of her ordeal (something about parts of her brain being opened up by the whole "dying" several times thing), and has a distinct psychic bond with The Cusp, himself. She's recruited by local Sheriff (Chris Bruno) to help capture the killer and rescue his current victim. The film's one vicarious link to the original is the return of the dream transference doo-dad, which has now been streamlined to look like a cellphone headset. This allows Maya unprecedented access to The Cusp's noggin' whereupon the filmmakers attempt to recreate the surreal dreamworlds from the first film using the same sort of primal video technology usually reserved for local car lot commercials. Compared to The Cell 2, The Weather Channel looks like fucking Star Wars.
The Cell 2 is a mess. The acting is atrocious, the script is abominable, and the special effects aren't anything your average high school kid couldn't achieve with a laptop and a copy of Final Cut Pro. The one cool concept - that being The Cusp's modus operandi of killing his victims and resuscitating them over and over- is recycled from an episode of the serial-killer-of-the-week drama, Criminal Minds, where it was handled far more competently. This film did hold my attention, but only because it was like watching two trains collide in slow motion, and my morbid sense of curiosity forced me to hang in there and witness every second of the carnage.
The DVD from New Line features a thirty minute EPK in which the cast and crew pat each other on the back for a job well done, and marvel at all they've accomplished in spite of their budget limitations.
And Denial is a river in Egypt.
I still can't get my mind around the fact that someone thought it would be a good idea to make a sequel to a movie like The Cell - a film that was literally carried by its expensive visuals - and craft it so cheaply as to make it all but unwatchable. To me that's like making a sequel to Saving Private Ryan using nothing but a sandbox and a bag of plastic army men.
The Cell 2 gets one skull for unintentional comedic value, as the FX work is so shoddy I half-expected one of those Sid and Marty Krofft dinosaur puppets to come bouncing across the screen every time Maya entered The Cusp's mind , but, aside from those few inadvertent laughs, this film's not good for much else.