Catherine Deane is a psychologist who is working on an experimental technique in which she enters into the subconscious of people who are comotose, she's been trying to help a young boy named Edward to wake out of a coma without much luck. Peter Novak from the FBI is on the case of a serial killer who drowns his victims and turns them into human dolls, when he and his team find the killer Carl Stargher, he is lying unconscious in his kitchen. With Carl being in an irreversible coma, they call on Catherine to enter the mind of the killer and try to find the location of his last victim who is in a glass room slowly filling with water. Catherine now has to explore Carl's twisted, fractured mind to find the location, but with Carl being a schizophrenic psychopath, his mind is a strange, scary and dangerous place to be.
Jennifer Lopez probably gives her best performance in The Cell, the only other performance that I quite liked was in Out Of Sight. She will never be a great actress, but when she appears in a strong film with good actors around her then she does okay. Vince Vaughn was pretty good as Peter Novak, it's a shame he's only really known as a comedy star these days because he's a very good serious actor when he wants to be. I think he's great in movies like Dodgeball, Old School and Wedding Crashers, but i'd highly recommend watching some of his films from the late '90s such as A Cool Dry Place, Return To Paradise and Clay Pigeons to see the potential he had before taking the easy, comedic route. Vincent D'Onofrio is superb as the unstable killer Carl Stargher, he's genuinely creepy but has the odd moment where you almost sympathise with his character. The supporting cast is great with many well known faces, Dylan Baker, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jake Weber, Dean Norris, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Peter Sarsgaard in an uncredited role as the final victims fiance all give excellent performances.
It's confidently directed by Tarsem Singh making his very first feature film, he has a visual style that's unique and spectacular. His next film called The Fall was every bit as visually stylish as The Cell, and any shortcomings The Cell may have had, the visuals more than make up for. It's probably the most beautiful horror film i've ever seen, the images, effects, make up and costumes when they're inside Carl's mind were phenominal. A lot of the images are taken from real life peices of art from people like Odd Nerdrum, Damien Hirst and H.R. Giger. The movie definitely benefits from watching it with the sound turned up loud, it has a great creepy soundtrack that is extremely effective in adding to the films overall creepiness.
The film had an impressive $33,000,000 budget, i'm sure a lot of that was spent on the visuals. It made an equally impressive $104,000,000 worldwide, but seems to have been forgotten and it's definitely an underrated movie. The dvd looks good but hopefully the fantastic visuals will be improved with a region 2 blu ray release. There's a commentary from director Tarsem Singh, deleted scenes, filmographies, isolated score, behind the scenes and trailers. The Cell is a very good film that fans of psychological horror should enjoy, but the imagery is the real winner and the film's worth buying for that alone.