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The Cell 2 (2009)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/16/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/14/2009

If you want to be incredibly cynical, it could be argued that all direct-to-video sequels are unnecessary. (And I personally can't think of any which could be considered great movies.) Taking this a step further, a lot of these movies can be broken down into two categories, both of which can fall under the "sequel in name only" umbrella. First, there are those movies which don't have any of the actors from the original, but it may feature a character who is a relative of one of those people, or it could be set in the same location. Secondly, there are those movies whose connection to the original film is only a similar plot. Sometimes these movies feel as if they weren't meant to be sequels in the first place, and the label was only the creation of a marketing executive. The Cell 2 falls into that second category.

As The Cell 2 opens, a group of FBI agents, led by Skylar (Bart Johnson), are attempting to track down a serial killer. They are being aided by Maya Casteneda (Tessie Santiago), a psychic who can see into both the victim's and the killer's minds. Unfortunately, they arrive too late. A year later, Skylar approaches Maya for help again, as the killer, who is now being called The Cusp, has struck again. They travel to the crime scene, where Maya meets Sheriff Harris (Chris Bruno). The Cusp's MO is to kidnap girls and hold them for several days before he kills them, so the team knows that they are racing against the clock. As clues are gathered, Maya uses her powers to try and locate the killer. But, The Cusp is ready for Maya. Will they be able to save the victim?

Here are two clues which lead me to believe that The Cell 2 began life as a stand-alone movie which got slapped with a sequelized title. For starters, The Cell a crime-thriller which used the serial killer plot as a jumping off point for Director Tarsem to stage elaborate and colorful set-pieces which took place inside the mindscape. These involved fancy costumes and special effects. In The Cell 2, when Maya goes inside her mind, it looks like an 80s music video, right down to Maya's clothes, which indicate that she's be hitting a dance club later. Secondly, in the lone extra feature attached to this film, one of the people behind the movie refers to it as "The Cell 2 aka The Cusp". Maybe I'm reading too much into that one.

No matter what its origins, The Cell 2 is a bad movie. But, I don't think it started out that way. Despite the fact that The Cusp is a terrible name for a killer (and a word for which most viewers won't know the definition), his methods are interesting. Instead of simply kidnapping and killing his victims, he takes them to the brink of death several times over the course of a few days, and then revives them. That's an interesting idea which I haven't seen before, and a good center for a movie.

Unfortunately, The Cell 2 is stymied by shoddy writing. The movie can't decide if it wants to be a mystery or not, but once The Cusp's method of killing and then reviving his victims is revealed, only those who have been out of the room for an extended period of time won't know who the killer is. The movie, unlike the back of the Blu-ray Disc and DVD box, waits far too long to reveal to us that Maya is the only victim to have escaped from The Cusp (and that story is a bit weak). Maya wears a device to keep The Cusp from her entering her consciousness and killing her. This is a neat idea, but we're never given any indication of how it works. The final straw is the finale were The Cusp is fighting law-enforcement in the real world, while he's battling Maya in his head. Now that's multi-tasking!

The film's low-budget nature isn't doing it any favors either. I've already mentioned the low-tech approach to the mindscape. The movie was shot in Utah, presumably during the winter. There is snow on the ground in some shots, but not in others. The worst part are the scenes where it will be snowing like crazy in one angle, and then clear in the next. I guess Director Tim Iacofano thought that the footage would cut together. I'm still not sure what was happening during a car-chase sequence which features one small jump stunt which was so underwhelming that we got to see how they did it during the end credits.

I honestly don't remember much about The Cell, but I know that it was light-years ahead of this movie. Kudos to those behind The Cell 2 for attempting to add some new elements to the very tired serial killer genre. It's too bad that the whole thing falls apart.

The Cell 2 can't even get a red herring right on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The depth in the landscape shots is excellent. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is almost too good, as we can see how heavily made up Santiago is. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides good stereo effects which are nicely detailed and really come into play during the action scenes. A scene with a helicopter and those inside Maya's head deliver good surround sound and subwoofer effects.

The Cell 2 Blu-ray Disc contains only one extra feature. "The Cell 2: Behind the Scenes" (30 minutes) is a detailed look at the film's production. We get comments from the filmmakers who discuss how the film came together and the challenges of shooting on a tight budget. The cast chimes in by talking about their characters and their experiences on-set. The piece also looks at stunts, locations, and sound.

Warner Home Video has also brought The Cell 2 to DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks good, although not as good as the Blu-ray. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and good colors. The balance is good, but it's not as crisp as the BD. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which gives us clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, and again, certain scenes bring home effective surround and bass effects.

The DVD carries the same extra as the Blu-ray Disc.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long