The Cell 2000 Movie Scene Jennifer Lopez as Catherine Deane in the world of Vincent D'Onofrio as Carl Stargher with his emperor look and huge drapes hanging from his rings on the back

The Cell [2000]

As stylish as only the early 2000s movies can be, The Cell is a visual masterpiece featuring a classic serial killer versus detective story. I remember how it completely blew me away the first time I saw it. Never before have I seen a movie with such a unique aesthetic. A unique aesthetic that was disturbing, macabre, and perverse in its nature. It visualizes a world that other serial killer movies just talk about. However, I don’t want to get too distracted so early in this movie recommendation. The Cell consists of two different subplots that meld into one fairly early on.

Catherine Deane, played by Jennifer Lopez, is a child psychologist using a revolutionary new machine to enter the minds of her patients. She’s currently working with a young boy who’s in a coma, and trying to wake him up. At the same time, Detective Peter Novak is on the trail of a vicious serial killer who likes to play with his victims. He leaves them alive for just two days before killing them. And I think you already know what’s going to happen next. A ticking clock is going to be introduced and everybody will have to hurry if they want to see a happy end to this grisly tale.

The serial killer Carl Stargher is masterfully played by almost unrecognizable Vincent D’Onofrio. His imposing physique and stellar acting skills really brought this depraved and yet also tormented individual to life. In fact, Vincent’s wife refused to sleep with him in the same bed for two weeks after she saw the movie. That’s how good he was. His Carl Stargher makes other serial killers seem like boy scouts and I bet he could take them on any time. I think that the reason why he was so scary was because he felt real. And you could feel that unwavering evil commanding his every move.

Add to this the whole BDSM element and you could yourself an unforgettable villain. His appearance is almost identical to the one of Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men. Now, since that movie came out seven years after the release of this one, one might wonder did the Coen brothers lift the iconic identity of Mr. Chigurh? They say the inspiration behind his looks was an old photo of a man visiting a brothel from 1879. However, that’s not that important now. What is important is that The Cell offers a look into the mind of a serial killer. We recently talked about Dreamscape, an eighties science fiction movie starring Dennis Quaid. 

It’s about a man who uses a similar technology to enter other people’s dreams. Oddly enough, Quaid would go on to star in Horsemen, another movie about a serial killer featuring the same suspension BDSM elements. There was something truly unsettling about almost every scene that happens in the Stargher’s demented world. Not only the visuals are creepy but there’s also a deeper meaning behind them. A deeper meaning that’s going to be revealed later on in the movie. The costumes, ornaments, and sets are so unique that you will keep coming back to them. Or they will keep coming back to you. 

Just last night, as the movie was coming to an end, I was hoping that I was not going to dream about all this stuff. That’s how this world feels, like a nightmare and now imagine living that nightmare every day of your life. A lot of these scenes were inspired by paintings by artists like Odd Nerdrum (Girls with open mouths) and Damien Hirst (Horse). Of course, everyone’s favorite creeper, H.R. Giger was also the source of inspiration behind a couple of scenes. The Cell introduces complexity to an otherwise pretty familiar serial killer story.

You can really not only hear and see but also feel how it feels to be in this twisted world. And we will not be spending time just in one place. We will be in deserts, huge rooms, atriums, and all kinds of other structures. Each new scene brings with it a sense of excitement and dread. Usually, I quickly find the screengrabs I want to use but here I simply gave up after the first five minutes. Should the main image be of Stargher in his full gear? Would that be too much? How about Jennifer Lopez wearing her iconic metal mask?

There were so many choices and I hope I made the right ones. Although, even if I fucked up, this just means that you will have to check out the movie to see all of them. And when you do, make sure to watch the unrated director’s cut version. It features one of the more disturbing scenes in the entire movie. It’s the one where Stargher masturbates while, well, I don’t want to spoil anything. And I’m sure you’re going to notice it straight away. If it lasted for just twenty seconds longer, it would be just so fucked up and nasty so I’m glad they cut it in time.

It goes without saying that there will be a lot of very graphic and disturbing scenes. What makes The Cell even more bonkers is the fact that it was Tarsem Singh’s directorial debut. He would go on to work on such movies as The Fall and Immortals. However, this is such a unique movie that I don’t know any other like it. Perhaps Thirteen Ghosts is similar in a visual style while The Frailty offers a similar serial killer atmosphere. And I’ll just throw in there Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain for good measure.

Finally, I just want to say that I respect all the weed references. I’m sure you’re going to pick up on them. After all, Jenny from the block does light up one after a hard day at work. Although I do not recommend you get high before watching The Cell. 

Director: Tarsem Singh

Writer: Mark Protosevich

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dylan Baker, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Gerry Becker

Fun Facts: Carl Stargher’s medical condition “Whalen’s Infraction” is fake, a product of Mark Protosevich’s vivid imagination.


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