‘Cell’ Passes China’s Horror-adverse Censorship

Stephen King’s homage to zombie films has managed to lurch past China’s notoriously horror-adverse censorship board.

Official still of ‘Cell’.

American sci-fi horror film Cell, based on a 2006 Stephen King novel of the same name, has passed Chinese censorship, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a release date is yet to be announced.

Cell follows the story of a graphic artist and his desperate search for his estranged wife and son in a New England where cell phone users are mysteriously transformed into savage killers by an evil electronic signal. It’s the second adaptation of a Stephen King story to co-star John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, and also features Isabelle Fuhrman and Stacy Keach.

The film received scathing reviews from critics upon its North American release in June last year. Most have criticized its plot and acting as tepid and devoid of suspense. “Dated, despondent and pretty much a disaster,” read one review in The New York Times. The film has a meager approval rating of just 11 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Zombie-themed thrillers have had a tough time with censors in China, as part of the government’s guidelines that ban the promotion of “cults or superstition”. Last year, Train to Busan, an acclaimed South Korean film about a zombie apocalypse, was denied a release in the mainland. It has so far grossed over US$87 million in box office worldwide on an estimated budget of US$8.5 million.

However this year, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, a sci-fi action horror film and the final installment in the Resident Evil series, was granted a release in February, making over CNY$1.1 billion (or US$160 million) in China.

Additional reporting Amber Ziye Wang