The Cell (2000)


Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn

Synopsis: J’Lo plays a pot-smoking child psychologist who enters the mind of a serial killer through an experimental mind-swapping coma machine in order to find a missing girl.

Who would have thought that a movie starring J-Lo could be artistic. I mean, Anaconda was artistic in its own way….sort of. Many of the scenes in The Cell, however, are actually inspired by the works of Damien Hirst, Nerdrum, H R Giger, and the Brothers Quay. That makes for some fucked up imagery. If I’m being 100 per cent honest, though, I actually quite like this movie. There’s something visceral and powerful about it.

A lot of the emotions I felt when watching this movie were negative: disgust, revulsion, terror. However, it’s rare that you see a movie with such force and with such a clear artistic vision. When one comes along I can’t help but like it. The visual beauty should be expected as the director, Tarsem Singh, also directed The Fall which is largely considered to be one of the most visually arresting movies out there. However, The Fall’s narrative was decidedly ‘meh’ and left much to be desired. In contrast, The Cell manages to strike an appropriate balance between visual mastery and engrossing story. Neither element overshadows the other and I found both my eyes and my mind engaged.

At times, this movie had a serious Silence of the Lambs feel and you would think it would be impossible to mesh extreme horror with beauty but Singh manages to do it with panache. However, the horror in this movie can be quite difficult to bare at times. The way the serial killer, who for some reason I thought was Philip Seymour Hoffman (may he rest in peace), kills his victims is traumatic. What he does to them afterwards is even more distressing. It takes a strong will to get through some of the scenes and even I found myself tested….and I’ve seen all sorts of crazy shit thanks to /r/WTF.

Now, let’s talk about the Hispanic elephant in the room: Jennifer Lopez. She’s not a great actress (“I can catch a snake too”). However, she’s not exactly terrible either. In The Cell there’s something fresh-faced and oddly endearing about her. Also, she tokes up in her underwear and has a pet cat so that’s great. She is still Jenny from da block, after all. Seriously though, she pulls the weirdest face when she’s high. However, she never manages to quite convince the audience that she’s actually a child psychologist. Maybe it’s because I know what she’s like outside of the film. Still, she tries and I can respect that. When she rocks up as Jesus to save the day, though, that is maybe a bit too much.


  • Beautiful use of colour and terrific art direction.
  • Toke up J-Lo. Oooooh a kitty!
  • Oh hai doggy.
  • Engrossing plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat


  • Can be very disturbing and distressing at times.
  • Vince Vaughn being serious and J-Lo as Jesus.
  • Is that Philip Seymour Hoffman!?………Nah. Damn, now I’m sad.


While Paprika is still my favourite dream-entering mind-bending thriller, The Cell is not a bad alternative. Even if you don’t like Jennifer Lopez or even the plot, you can still appreciate the art direction, make up, and costumes. If you smoke something that heightens your senses, then both the colours and artistry will become so much more vivid and will have more of an impact. The downside is that you’ll also be tweaked while watching some really distressing scenes. Either way, this film will illicit some kind of gut reaction from you.




Filed under Good, Sci-Fi, Thriller

10 responses to “The Cell (2000)

  1. Excellent review! This is one of my favorite films (not top 10… maybe top 50). I really felt the horror in the way the victims were being killed. J.Lo’s acting was better in the dream world than outside of it. But the star of the film was the visual style… amazing.

  2. I saw this at the cinema and wanted to walk out. The imagery is astounding but the murders, and aftermath thereof, were just a bit too much for me. Great review, though.

  3. I love this movie. Love it love it love it.

    > you would think it would be impossible to mesh extreme horror with beauty<

    Have you seen Kiyoshi Kurosawa's stuff? Cure is especially on-point given this discussion (it's basically Silence of the Lambs: Japan), but he is a specialist at that sort of thing when he sticks his nose into the horror realm.

  4. Excellent post, you’ve got me curious to see this film.

  5. It’s downright beautiful and stylish. But the story itself has a been-there-done-that feel that almost never goes away. Good review.

  6. Abbi

    I need to rewatch this. I haven’t seen it since it came out.

  7. nasen75

    The killer was in fact NOT Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but Vincent D’Onofrio. If you saw Full Metal Jacket, he was Private Pyle in that film, and Vincent D’Onofrio can REALLY play murderous psychos really well.

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