Russell has to decide if he wants to let his wife die from her disease, or if he should sign up to a program with her - one that could be a danger to them both if things don't work out as expected. He can't imagine his life without her, and signs up. While in the program's institution they are not allowed to go out, and the only people around them are other test subjects. Soon this cure starts showing strange symptoms.
When you think of movies like "Cabin Fever" and "Mold!", it's likely that you think of modern movies that somehow achieve the spirit on the 80's-early 90's. The first one I'm not personally a fan of, but it's one that I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been in the mid-80's. Same thing goes for "Mold!", which perhaps even more successfully implemented the spirit and atmosphere that made those older films such a good time. "Cell Count" is another one in the row of 80's/90's-esque horror that doesn't strive to LOOK like them, but IS like them. Without naming every similarity I can think of, "Cell Count" probably takes the largest bits and pieces from early Cronenberg and "The Thing".
"Cell Count" starts off with a surprisingly heartfelt storyline about a man and his sick wife. The man, Russell, signs up to an experimental program that, best case scenario, will end with a cured wife. They end up in an institution with 4 others, and except for a few doctor/nurse visits, that's the people they will be spending the journey with. Locked in a clinically clean, sterile, enviroment. Obviously, they're left in the dark as to what is being done to them, and soon weirder and weirder things happen. They start to feel very ill, and panic spans across the institution after one of the guys from another side of the institution - a criminal who is locked in his own cell - pukes out a fleshy, alien-like cloth that wraps around his head. It's seemingly taking over his mind, and they realize that this is what will happen to each and everyone of them...
The institutionalized theme, sci-fi/alien-esque body horror, splattery effects and just a paperthin layer of emotions on top - the filling is simply "sci-fi horror". Yeah, it's not far from an 80's flick. And actually, a whole lot of 80's and 90's sci-fi horrors were about people in a confined space, usually a lab or military base of sorts. Even going for titles I've reviewed fairly recently there's "Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor" and "Carnosaur". It's understandable since the outbreak usually begins and ends with a lab. "Cell Count" takes no harm in being mashed together with these titles, or even titles like "Body Melt", because they are entertaining movies.
The big difference is that "Cell Count" tries a little harder to pull your heartstrings and in the end there's too much dead time between the action. I don't expect a fullblown splatter or a massacre, but this could do with some trimming. Especially when it has an ending that leaves you wanting more. You just know that if it didn't end when it did, you'd be seeing a ton of action going on. Yes, it's one of those sudden endings. I don't think that hurts it too much - if they plan to make a sequel. This is definitely a movie, just like "Nailbiter", where it feels like the first movie is the start of something bigger. I hope they decide to work further on the story here. Perhaps the second can be the action-filled ride that this one never quite became.
I think the effects are great in "Cell Count". For the most part... Unfortunately there's a scene of some obvious CGI. It's not the worst I've seen, but when the rest of the effects looked this good (and mostly practical) it was really a let-down to see a computerized tentacle flapping about. Other than this scene, the effects are quite impressive. I especially love the look of the infected guy after the "alien cloth" (as I call it) wraps around his head. Fleshy and breathing, with a strange anus-like orifice as a mouth. I said anus, but that doesn't mean it becomes silly. Bizarre, rather. I liked it! Towards the end we face an infected military guy and these effects are slightly more obvious latex, BUT it's charming and fits the movie perfectly. That's one thing that CGI will never succeed with. Practical effects can look so-so and still rule the fuck out of the movie, while poor CGI will always anger me. So yes, "Cell Count" has good effects. They have quite a lot of effects, but usually in very small portions. That goes hand-in-hand with the movie being a bit too long and slow at times, since the dialogue and general walking-around takes up much, much more of the runtime than the action. In some movies I applaud it, in some movies it drags them down.
Acting goes all over the place. We have some solid acting and interesting characters in the institution. But the doctor, played by Christopher Toyne, left me far from impressed. I couldn't any scene with him seriously, and it was really stupid at times. His accent is what ruined it. He doesn't have that German accent in real life, does he? I don't want to be a bully here, so if he does then I'll just say that they should've gone with someone else for the role. If it was a put-on accent (I really hope it was..) then that should've been scrapped. The rest of them are all up to the task, though. I especially liked Ted Rooney as Abraham. He carried an intense persona, but still manage to seem like a very good guy.
"Cell Count" is not a fantastic movie, but it's another one in the row of entertaining sci-fi horror flicks. The movie should probably have been trimmed quite a bit, even though it could've lost some of the heart and soul doing so. I think it would've been worth it, since the movie now feels like it should've been a fun throwback, but never quite reached the destination. It has an ending that has left a lot of people furious - it's not that bad, really. I mean, sure, we would've wanted to see more. But at least it left on a good note, I think. Hopefully they listen to my prayers and made a sequel that picks up where this ends, and works on developing this further. Some people will be disappointed by "Cell Count", some people will love it. I'm closer to loving it than hating it, and I'm happy it captures a retro feeling without forcing it.