The Cell

Director: Tarsem Singh
Year Released: 2000
Rating: 1.5

Suggested alternative titles: Daddy Hurt Me, Make the Voices Stop, Paradjanov Presents or Tune In, Drop Out, Kill Horse (if you see it, this will make sense). Director Tarsem Singh – best known for his homoerotic R.E.M. video "Losing My Religion" – tries his hand at big-time storytelling with a familiar conceit – trying to get inside a killer's head –but with a twist of lime, i.e. making the killer's head look like a Marilyn Manson/Nine Inch Nails video. The visuals are stunning, colorful and creative to a "T" – you've never seen stuff this inventive in a Hollywood picture since "Dark City," and they bring to mind the early expressionistic cinema of the Germans (Weine's "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," for example). But the film's psychoanalytical angle – that serial killer Carl (Vincent D'Onofrio, still thinking he's in his "Men in Black" role), who turns women into plastic dolls with bleach after drowning them and raping them, does so because he was abused as a child (by a typically one-dimensional, fly-off-the-handle father) is hackneyed like the plot (find victim before she dies) and all the "scientific" mumbling about schizophrenia is suspect from a medical angle (I read a great deal about the disease as an undergrad). The dialogue and character motivations are also basic and forgettable, with burned-out detective Vince Vaughn saying fluff like "We don't have much time" and "I couldn't save her" and battling personal demons; Jennifer Lopez, usually whispering, is obsessed with saving children because of her own past. The characters are not as developed as the scenery, and because of this all you're left with a high-priced MoMA exhibit. And, if you insist on touring someone's subconscious, steer towards Malkovich instead.