In Horror Flicks, The Cell Phone Always Dies First Scary movies just aren't as scary when the protagonists can call for help -- so it's up to the filmmakers to kill off the pesky mobiles early on. No signal? Dead battery? Dropped the phone in the toilet/sink/fishtank/pool? There are many creative (and not so creative) ways for filmmakers to cut off communication.
NPR logo

In Horror Flicks, The Cell Phone Always Dies First

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In Horror Flicks, The Cell Phone Always Dies First

In Horror Flicks, The Cell Phone Always Dies First

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


And if baseball doesn't get your heart pumping, you could check out the remake of "Nightmare on Elm Street." Last weekend, it was the biggest thing at the box office.

(Soundbite of "Nightmare on Elm Street")

Unidentified Man #1: Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.

(Soundbite of crashing)

Unidentified Woman #1: Who are you?

Mr. JACKIE EARLE HALEY (Actor): (As Freddy Krueger) Remember me?

(Soundbite of screaming)

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: OK. Freddy Krueger, played in the new film by Jackie Earle Haley, scared the pants off a new generation so thoroughly that there are already plans for another one.


Since the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" was released in 1984, there's been another huge technological change in horror films: cell phones. If teens in peril can just pull out their phones and call for help, the scary movie isn't quite so scary, is it?

From member station KPBS, Beth Accomando reports.

BETH ACCOMANDO: There's no such thing as a reliable network for cell phone service in horror movies. Take the upcoming film "The Human Centipede." Two young women get stranded, and are held captive by a mad surgeon.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Human Centipede")

Unidentified Woman #2: There's no signal.

Unidentified Woman #3: What?

Unidentified Woman #2: There's no signal.

Unidentified Woman #3: There's always a signal.

ACCOMANDO: Actually, there's not. Just look what happens to the family in the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes." They discover that no matter how far technology advances, no signal is just the first of four basic limitations in the horror film provider package.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Hills Have Eyes")

Unidentified Woman #4: Find a signal?

Unidentified Man #2: No, nothing. Ninety-seven percent nationwide coverage, and we find ourselves in that 3 percent.

ACCOMANDO: Which brings us to the second plan limitation: cell phone battery life. It's even shorter than your life in a horror film, especially when you've got chatty friends, like in "The Roost."

(Soundbite of movie, "The Roost")

Unidentified Man #3: Did you try your cell phone again?

Unidentified Woman #5: Yeah, it's dead. You used up all the battery when you were talking to Mike.

ACCOMANDO: The third issue is more user error - as in whoops, I dropped the phone in the toilet, pool, sink or, like in "Disturbia" ...

(Soundbite of movie, "Disturbia")

Unidentified Man #4: I dropped my phone in his car.

ACCOMANDO: And finally, the killer himself can disrupt your service plan by destroying your phone or politely knocking it into the sink, as Michael Pitt does before terrorizing Naomi Watts in "Funny Games."

(Soundbite of movie, "Funny Games")

(Soundbite of banging)

Mr. MICHAEL PITT (Actor): (As Paul) Oh, God.

Ms. NAOMI WATTS (Actor): (As Ann Farber) What? Oh, no.

Mr. PITT: (As Paul) I'm sorry.

ACCOMANDO: But these genre cliches divide fans in San Diego's Horror and Action Meet-Up Group. Just ask Wayne Sherman and Dante Moran.

Mr. WAYNE SHERMAN: Oh, I don't have service. You had service when you driving there. But as soon as the - you know, the 6-foot-9, masked killer with an ax comes out, cell phone doesn't work, the battery's dying, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And, of course, there's no charger.

Mr. DANTE MORAN: Some of the cliches make it a horror film, right?

Mr. SHERMAN: Yeah.

Mr. MORAN: You know, I mean, it puts you in the right state of mind and so forth but, sort of, you signed up for some of those things.

ACCOMANDO: But maybe horror movies need to check out the service plan over at the end-of-the-world, Armageddon apocalypse genre. After all, cell phone service was quite robust in "2012."

(Soundbite of movie, "2012")

(Soundbite of ringing phones)

ACCOMANDO: Everyone had service in that movie. Even the guy atop a mountain peak, about to be wiped out by a tsunami, could call his friend to say goodbye.

Unidentified Man #5: Sadin(ph), where are you?

Unidentified Man #6: (As Sadin) On the Nampan Plateau.

Unidentified Man #5: What?

(Soundbite of screaming)

Unidentified Man #6: (As Sadin) There's a tidal wave coming from the east. It's gigantic.

ACCOMANDO: That tidal wave is about to wipe out all of India, but there's still cell service. Now, if we can just find out who his provider is, maybe we can save those kids on Elm Street from a new Freddy Krueger.

For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando.

(Soundbite of music, "Murder" from the "Psycho" soundtrack)

MONTAGNE: And you can see all the ways filmmakers kill off cell phones, in a video montage at our website:

INSKEEP: You know, we always have service at MORNING EDITION. You can find us all day on Twitter @MORNINGEDITION and @nprinskeep. That's me.

MONTAGNE: We're also at And this is, of course, MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.