The Horror Honeys: His Mind Is Her Prison - The Cell

His Mind Is Her Prison - The Cell

A True Crime Honey Review

The Cell - 2000

Let me preface everything with saying just how much I adore director Tarsem Singh's aesthetic.  After filming The Cell, Singh took a bit of a break from full on directing...but his most recent films (Mirror, Mirror, and especially Immortals) are utterly beautiful.  Mark Protosevich's script writing is phenomenal with only a few pieces of dialogue awkwardness towards the end.

I freely admit that when I saw The Cell for the first time 13 years ago, I died a little inside. Aside from a lifelong obsession with serial killers, your True Crime Honey is also an archaeologist/ forensic anthropologist (for reals, that's 1/2 of my degree), and a makeup artist (my "real job"). Speaking as the latter, this movie made me want to create these beautiful "dolls", and that amazing creature that was both versions of Carl Stargher.  I couldn't process the beauty of Stargher's "dolls" and his characters in the film...I couldn't get enough.  I honestly can't tell you how many times I rented this film at age 19 and when I finally bought it second hand, and it didn't take me long to wear out the VHS (seriously, it broke in my VHS player and I cried).  The fact that I don't own it now hurts my spine ( I literally ordered it on Amazon as I'm wrote this).

The premise: A social worker experimenting with advanced technologies embarks on a terrifying journey into the mind of a serial killer to try to find where his latest victim is hidden.  I suppose this would be classed as a "race against time thriller" - but it's impossible to deny that elements of this film are fantastically horrifying.

Let's start with what's True Crime and REAL about this film:

Timelines - timelines are SO important in abduction/misisng persons cases.  There's a whole reality TV show built around it, that I quite enjoy - less drama would be appreciated of course, but beggers and choosers and all... Timelines and their importance really can't be stressed enough in these cases. Real life drama shows like "The First 48 Hours" really capture the stress, paranoia and heartache of the importance of these 60 minute intervals when a life is at stake.  If you've ever seen the show "Cold Case Files", it's heartbreaking to see what could have been if the first 40 hours after the incident were well handled.

The profile of a killer - Carl Stargher, our fictitious killer is, sadly, a typical one.  A horrifying childhood full of abuse that inevitably turns Carl into the crazed psycho that he is in real life.  Experienced through Social Worker, Katherine's (Jennifer Lopez - and she's actually good)'s brutal, visceral, and horrifying.  I personally don't think I have much of a mothering instinct, but listening to the exchanges in the film drove me to tears on more than a few occasions - I'm not saying how many.  Again, as with most serial killers, Carl Stargher is pegged as a white male in his late 20's or early 30's.  Stargher's penchant for suspension is also very interesting as are his unique masturbatory habits - serial killers (typically) exhibit obsessive or deviant sexual activities either stemming from childhood abuse, or sexual stress.  I say typically here, but that's obviously a generalization.  Stargher also mutilates dolls, trophies and personifications of his victims, and also the inspiration for his final plan for the women he captures.

The victims - Like all serial killers, Stargher had a type.  He would stalk them, follow them, trap and kidnap them.  His killing method is extremely high on the production scale, a long, drawn out, torturous process that ends in a bath of bleach, and producing an utterly beautiful, and haunting doll-like result. One of my favorite sequences in the film is the trophy museum in Stargher's's breathtakingly beautiful.

I know, I know...LOL Virgin JLo
Now back to the review part - I'm going to preface this by saying that I fucking hate JLo on the regular. For The Cell, I don't think anyone could have played that part more perfectly.  She brings the right amount of empathy, the right amount of strength, and while one of the taglines of the film is "Can beauty tame the beast?" it's totally not about that.  There's an entirely unnecessary shot of the famous JLo booty, but whatever.

Vince Vaughn should stick to doing stupid movies where he's an underdog but not really, those seem to work for him.  Stretching him beyond his capacity as a douchebag who gets his way in the end?  No. Anyone, and I literally mean anyone could have played that role better.

What carried this film for me was Vincent D'Onofrio.  This man terrifies me.  He's by turns vulnerable, visceral, violent, giddy, powerful, and utterly horrifying.  After experiencing D'Onofrio as Stargher, I can't see him in any other role...he will always be the spectre from The Cell - or Edgar/space cockroach from Men in Black.  

Costuming & Makeup - Eiko Ishioka. Just fucking click the link, and then watch the damn film and die a little inside, just like I did.  When the makeup team at K.N.B EFX (including my love, Greg Nicotero) is involved, you just shut the fuck up and enjoy everything that's happening.

True Crime Honey verdict - 8 pieces of evidence out of a possible 10, but only because of some wonky dialogue and Vince Vaughn's stubbly stupid face.