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Cell, The

Film (2000). New Line Cinema presents a Caro-McLeod/Radical Media production in association with Katira Productions GmbH & Co. KG and Avery Pix. Directed by Tarsem Singh. Written by Mark Protosevich. Cast includes Dylan Baker, Vincent D'Onofrio, Colton James, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jennifer Lopez, Tara Subkoff, Jake Thomas, Vince Vaughn and Jake Weber. 107 minutes. Colour.

A child psychologist (see Psychology) and an FBI agent (see Crime and Punishment) combine to locate the victim of a comatose serial killer via Dream Hacking.

"He's not just catatonic, he's disappeared. Like having a dream and never waking up."

Doctors Catherine Deane (Lopez), Henry West (Baker) and Miriam Kent (Jean-Baptiste) are at work on a cutting-edge Virtual Reality treatment when serial killer Carl Rudolph Stargher (D'Onofrio) slips into a rare form of schizophrenic coma. Stargher's latest victim, Julia Hickson (Subkoff), is trapped at an unknown location inside a glass cell that is slowly filling with water. FBI Special Agents Peter Novak (Vaughn) and Gordon Ramsey (Weber) persuade Deane to enter the haunted Inner Space of Stargher so that Hickson can be located before she drowns.

Director Tarsem Singh shows a great deal of technical acuity to keep the film flowing in the face of a plethora of references to everything from the Music videos of R.E.M., Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson to the visual arts of Odd Nerdrum (1944-    ) and H R Giger. Much of The Cell's plot is plainly derivative of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), but the dream-walking is persuasively and extensively rendered and the film is far superior to Dreamscape (1984) – itself far too loosely based on Roger Zelazny's The Dream Master (January-February 1965 Amazing as "He Who Shapes"; exp 1966) – and is a precursor to both Paprika (2006) and Inception (2010). The Cell's use of symbolism, costume and camera movement is genuinely striking and the sometimes-workaday script manages to merge surrealism, sf and the police procedural. [MD]

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Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 00:39 am on 24 January 2022.
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