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The Cell (2000)
Every so often we are handed people (as I see it) within the industry whose personal vision and ability to construct art turn out to be some of the most aesthetically satisfying images on a consistent basis. Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch being more of the obvious ones however Director Tarsem certainly on his way as a artist who has barely put his foot in the door. Having mainly worked on music videos prior his film directorial debut came with this beautifully schizophrenic world created within the mind of a serial killer.
A jet black horse is seen racing across the desert as Catherine (Jennifer Lopez) reaches her destination, travelling the rest of her journey by foot. Finally reaching a boy she begins discussing the finer details of how their day was to be spent. An obvious discernment for Mokelock, his boogeyman, of which we soon see him transform into and running off into the distance. Taking herself out of young Edward’s mind we see her suspended within a room where Henry (Dylan Baker) and Dr. Miriam Kent (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) are engaging in a virtual simulation having attempted for the past seven years. In a means to get through to Edward who had been in a coma. Averting the screen to a pick up truck where Carl (Vincent D’Onofrio) enters an abandoned warehouse (NEVER a good thing) where we find his latest victim submerged in a huge tank, soon releasing the water and taking the body with.
Averted back to Carl we find him in the middle of an assumed ritual as he dips his victim in bleach, washes her off and suspends himself with hooks in his back hovering above the victim. Seemingly getting his kicks as he watches the tape made along with his latest victim. Meanwhile Catherine takes a cue from her co-workers to relax as she smokes a joint and gives into her thoughts, drifting away to similar scenery in which Mokelock revisits her dreams; jolting her awake. The next day we are taken to a crime scene in which we see Cole (Dean Norris), Teddy (James Gammon) and Gordon (Jake Weber) discussing the 7th body found and how the collar around his latest victim was made as a means to make them feel as though they belonged to him. Teddy retrieving the coroner’s report and handing it to Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) in which they discover that their killer had made one fatal mistake. A hair from an albino dog was recovered along with the body.
Capturing his latest victim inside a parking garage setting up the scene perfectly. Peter later speaking with the police force on how they were going to begin their search in two manners; finding owners of Ford trucks and owners of German Shepard’s. Peter and Gordon visit with the missing woman’s family as he receives a phone call ensuring the information in order to obtain Carl Stargher. As their luck would have it though Carl’s body begins going into shock as they send their teams inside his house, going into a coma. The officers learn of Carl’s schizophrenia stating that an infraction or breach didn’t occur until then, perhaps caused by a trigger of some sort. Not just catatonic, but disappeared within his mind indefinitely. Hinds sight appearing to have no solution when the Doctor recalls Dr. Kent’s team. Catherine eventually making the final decision before beginning the process of entering his mind in hopes of finding any information leading to the missing woman.
Brief explanations are given on how the process works and their off. We set off with Catherine on her journey through Carl’s mind as we are first shown a sort of baptizing in reverse. Brought to the inner working within this tormented mind. A young boy races up the stairs, startled by the presence of another he warns is near; splitting a horse into several pieces for display while Catherine chases young Carl further into his mind. Reaching yet another level where we see his victims sprawled throughout a room each adjourned with their own mechanical ingenuity. A former victim is released who captures Catherine presenting her for Carl as he sits on his throne. We find the true occupant of this mind as he approaches the outsider inquiring as to where she had come from. Scaring her back to the real world, the ordeal tougher than expected.
Catherine and Peter get time to talk as they each learn a bit more of the other. He had been an attorney in the past switching over to the FBI when a case involving a little girl turned out worse than ever imagined. Deciding to catch the killers himself rather than attempt to discredit them in a court of law. Catherine later decides to go back into Carl’s mind, thrown in relatively faster than before, finding herself confined within a glass box. She’s released and guided by young Carl as he shows her what he was subjected to growing up. Getting a glimpse into his childhood we see Carl’s father berating him repeatedly, a mere glimpse of why he grew into the monster he had now become. Acknowledging Catherine briefly they engage in conversation speaking on his first interaction with water being his baptism and claiming to have had a seizure while under. Later that night having 3 of his ribs broken. Catherine becomes trapped in his mind believing it to be real while the Doctors scram to find someone to go in after her, Peter volunteering with little regret. Thrust into this other world without any sort of preparation he finds Catherine chained to a bed while Carl crept up behind him, capturing him as well. Awakening to find himself sprawled on a table with Carl performing a slight procedure, cutting him open and pulling out his intestines. Attached to a torture device and pleading with Catherine to wake up, reminding her of past grievances as tears well up in her eyes and she eventually comes to his rescue.
Time runs out and they’re no longer able to remain apprehended by the killer’s mind. As the pair exits the experiment Peter calls his fellow colleague pleading to investigate a symbol repeatedly seen as Catherine reversed the feed without affirming with her staff if in fact the right thing to do. (i.e. Carl would enter her mind instead of the other way around) Briefly speaking with Carl who claims that none of it matters, “he” always found him. Emerging in the background from a nearby pond playing a cat and mouse game with Catherine who ultimately destroys the monster in the same way he came to be created.
Final Thoughts: Besides the story-line being of extreme interest to myself, it’s the type of movie that keeps your interest if not just to view how much more twisted of a mind the audience can be thrust into. Jennifer Lopez was actually not as big apart of the movie though does remain a main character. Playing the role of a therapist was fitting for Lopez who seemed a great canvas once overcome by Carl. Certainly not the reason for holding an interest in the flick but as well not taking away. Which is all I ask of those not held at a higher statue of acting. While Vaughn may not be most known for his more serious roles he was able to play the hero type with a slight charm maintaining yet another fine role to his reel. Remembering that what will be most memorable of this film are D’Onofrio and Tarsem for what they have created and the manner in which it was executed. A fantastic adaptive actor, D’Onofrio demands the attention away from others on-screen to entertain in whichever manner seems fitting. Paired with a director who constantly beckoned “more” from his crew wanting a no holds barred world filled with wonderfully perverse impulsion and a great debut from a clearly gifted artist.