Stephen King has written the apocalypse enough times that he was bound to repeat himself eventually. Tod Williams’s decade-too-late adaptation of King’s 2006 novel about zombiegeddon-by-cellphone already has to deal with the fact that 2007’s The Signal did it better; King’s decision to co-write the script and turn it into a CliffsNotes version of The Stand only makes things worse. As he ditches most of the eccentric touches that gave the book some personality, King (with co-scribe Adam Alleca) once again gives us an apocalyptic event, mass deaths, a small group of survivors trying to make it to a safe zone up north and a mysterious satanic figure who invades everyone’s dreams.
An extremely ill-looking John Cusack sporting Nic Cage–level bad hair is Clay, a comic-book artist trying to make it home and find his family after a weird pulse turns everyone talking on a cellphone into rage-monsters. Samuel L. Jackson is Tom, a train conductor who joins Clay in figuring out the problem way before anyone else. Neither actor is trying all that hard, though Stacy Keach has some fun with a much smaller part.
Eli Roth was once slated to direct, and would have been better. Apparently uninterested in revealing why the apocalypse is happening, Williams falls back on the classic Walking Dead dodge of “It’s not about the zombies, it’s about the characters, maaan! They’re the real walking dead!” Which is a lot less effective in a movie than it is in an episodic series -- especially if you’re going to give the zombies a leader and never explain him.