What is it about actor Kiefer Sutherland and cell phones? During the years of TV’s “24” series, (a personal favourite) Sutherland’s character Jack Bauer spent much of every episode on his cell phone, while at the same time pursuing terrorists by car, on planes, trains and buses or on foot across overhead passes and through underground tunnels.
While all this as going on, he was simultaneously talking on that cell with other agents, with the President, with his enemies, and sometimes with his daughter, Kim, while she was being chased by stalkers, kidnappers, psycho survivalists, various teenage delinquents and other assorted creepies. Just another day yakking on the phone.
In his recently premiered new tv series, ‘Touch,’ Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, the father of an autistic boy, who is mute, and who communicates his prophetic abilities via the use of numbers. In the opening episode the boy writes these numbers down and manipulates multiple cell phones to ring with those same numbers. Yes. Cell phones again (more commonly referred to in Australia and the UK as mobiles.) Other plotlines in that opening epidode, and in subsequent episodes, have kept finding various uses for cell phones. (For the record, I'm enjoying 'Touch,' which explores the interconnection between all of us.)
Thriller fiction has always been adept at taking new technologies, which have become part and parcel of our ordinary, everyday lives and then casting them in a sinister light or as an unexpected ally to propel the suspense or horror being experienced.
And the good ‘ol cell phone has taken pride of place in being that object in recent years. These days everyone walks around with a phone glued to their ear as though it was another necessary appendage like an arm or a leg. We even have fake toy cell phones for kids. Next thing you know there’ll be cell phones for people’s pet dogs.
There’s something chilling when the most familiar, taken-for-granted items in our lives become the focus of something…else.
In Stephen King’s novel, ‘Cell,” a pulse sent out over cell phone networks turns most of the population into violent, mindless “zombies,” and the use of the pulse and the phones features prominently throughout. A cell broadcast that attacks the human race? These days there’s probably an app for that.
In the movie, “Cellular,” a damaged cell phone becomes the vital lifeline between a kidnapped woman and a young man who thinks the call he receives from her is a prank. (Okay, we all know someone who’s made a prank call that's not much better than that.)
In the film, “Buried,” Ryan Reynolds plays a truck driver who is buried alive in a box beneath the desert with just a cigarette lighter (for light) and a cell phone (for contact with the outside world which, despite its best efforts, cannot find him.) Suspenseful and claustrophobic, it’s a movie that realises one of everyone’s worst nightmares.
In Greg Bear’s novel, “Dead Lines,” a businessman launches a powerful new cell phone called The Trans – and we are plunged into a world of pure horror when we discover that these phones can contact the dead.
The cell phone thriller – it’s on its way to becoming a sub-genre of its very own.
And if a movie of King’s ‘Cell,’ is made – or some other cell-related thriller film, and the filmmakers need a lead man experienced in acting with cell phones?