Monday, March 23, 2015

Torture Cell

As confirmed Tarsem Singh fans, we are glad we finally watched The Cell (2000). Well, not glad exactly...

Jennifer Lopez works for a company that puts her into the mind of coma patients. It starts with her trying to convince a young boy to get on a dreamship and sail out of his coma. This is full of Tarsem's beautiful surrealism. The process involves wearing rubber suits that make you look like you've had your skin flayed off, and being suspended from the ceiling, so the surrealism continues outside the dream world.

The work is hard and slow, and leaves Lopez sleepless and stressed. There's a cute scene where she smokes a joint and tries to fall asleep watching Fantastic Planet - not as fantastic or creepy as her job.

But it gets much worse when the police (Vince Vaughan!) catch a serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio) after he has a fit and falls into a coma. His MO is to drown his victims slowly over 40 hours in a hidden, automated torture cell. There's a girl in it now, and they have to find it fast. So Lopez will have to go into the mind of a twisted killer.

Two things:
  • The scenes inside the killer's mind are visually amazing, a mix of innocent wonder, child abuse, and glorious, decadent, monstrous oriental splendor.
  • The scenes of torture are pretty ghastly - almost more than I could take. It made it clear how hard Lopez's attempt to sympathize with the humanity inside the killer was.
In fact, in scenes where we see the horrible conditions that made the killer what he became, I couldn't help thinking, screw him, there's a girl slowly drowning somewhere.

The funny thing is, we saw this movie in the midst of a bunch of girls-in-peril stuff. For example, there's a scene where the missing girl seems to be locked in an underwater chamber in The Wicker Man. A girl is threatened in Cape Fear. And we have been watching an interesting Australian 1920's lady detective series, Miss Fisher's Mysteries. The series is mostly stand-alone mysteries, but there is a continuing plot about the man who killed Miss Fisher's sister. In the episode we watched immediately before The Cell, the serial killer abducts a young woman and gets all dressed up as an Egyptian god, similar to the way the killer in The Cell imagines himself to be a demonic oriental king, with Lopez as his consort.

This is a beautiful, fascinating movie, but also brutal and very tense. Our hearts were racing and we were practically panting by the end. You may have more or less tolerance for that than us - also more or less tolerance for silly science, like the virus that causes serial killing/comas. But I hope we can all agree about the beauty and surrealism.

And just to let you off the hook, the killer's dog, a beautiful albino German Shepherd, survives the movie. That had me worried right up to the end.

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