A Forgotten Stephen King Thriller Critics Hated Is Now Free to Stream; But Were They Right?

Stephen King
Stephen King in 1999. ©ABC/Courtesy Everett Collection

The sheer volume of new Stephen King titles being released can be a touch overwhelming at times. Some go theatrical, some are criminally underrated prequels released to streaming (Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, y’all), and some just sort of appear in the ether. Case in point? Tod Williams’ 2016 Cell, adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Much like The Stand, Pet Sematary, and several others, King wrote the screenplay alongside Adam Alleca. If you, like most audiences, missed Cell when it first released, you can now catch it streaming for free on Freevee.

Per Freevee: John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson star in this mind-blowing thriller based on the novel by Stephen King about a cell phone signal that triggers apocalyptic terror.

Cell was released in 2016, though it really would have had a better shot a decade before. The early aughts were packed to the brim with analog and digital technologies running amok. The Ring, One Missed Call, Stay Alive, a dozen more. Cell even features a payphone, not the Colin Farrell, variant, in 2016. It’s wild. So, yeah, the conceit of electronic signals turning phone users into homicidal maniacs is a little bit harder to buy cinematically in an iPhone era.

Cell almost did release much earlier. The Stephen King project originally had Hostel director Eli Roth attached, though he exited the project in 2009, saying he “walked off Cell kind of quietly. There was just sort of a difference in opinion on how to make the film and what the story should be, and there’s a different direction the studio wants to go with it.”

The development hell was undoubtedly felt in the final project. Neither critics nor audiences were won over by the high-concept terror, though we did once try to make the case that maybe it was better than originally received. Stephen King projects run the gamut from great to abysmal, though among the weakest of the weak, everyone’s got at least one they’re unashamedly fond of. For you, maybe that’s Cell.

What do you think? Would you be interested in checking out Stephen King’s Cell? Don’t forget you can catch it on Freevee. If you do, let me know what you think on Twitter @Chadiscollins.



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter