The trailer was promising, the practical effects even more so — but Cell Count lost this reviewer along the way with its typical indie film shortcomings — overacting, shoddy dialogue, shaky camera shots, continuity and clarity issues, confusing direction, and a lot that’s never explained, like the smirk on Daniel Baldwin’s face (presumably because he duped another filmmaker into hiring him).

A group of sickly, coughing patients with a terminal, unnamed disease convene for what is presumably a joint corporate/military-sponsored, medical study. The patients are eager to leave immediately, despite the fact that they knew they were going to be quarantined for a while. Without any description of the illness — is it a new form of cancer, an organ-eating virus, bubonic plague — it’s hard to develop empathy for any of the characters, some of which are convicts that are suddenly discovered in a forbidden ward. A crazy doctor (a possible Nazi) who has dubious motives, of course, oversees all this. The patients, at least the ones who voluntarily sign up for the cure, are warned that it comes at a price. When you’re dying, you’re living on credit, price be damned. Here, the price is a parasite. Is it the disease itself taking form? We don’t know. And what’s up with the time-traveling, delusional guy? What about the murdering, child-molesting convict with the weird red film coming out of his mouth and covering his head? No matter, we’re happy just to not look at his face anymore.

A lot happens with no reason. A dog explodes, which is admittedly awesome, but other things like the doctor suddenly announcing that guns are pointed at the doors (should anyone think about trying to escape) — make no sense and have no explanation whatsoever. The patients seemingly lived a normal life before they were quarantined, but it appears that magically, the world has fallen to an epidemic of the disease of which they suffer. Motivations are unclear, and the ending is nothing short of confounding. Has the script been rewritten so many times that it no longer resembles a coherent plot? Has the film been edited into a logic-less oblivion? We may never know. Nevertheless, Cell Count 2 is in the works.

If you adore sci-fi horror or consider yourself a body horror completest, check out this film; just know that you may encounter the frustrations listed above. That said, Cell Count boosts grisly, cringe-inducing, practical effects (the CGI doesn’t come off nearly half as well), which are the best thing the film has going for it. It’s also better than anything on SyFy or Chiller, either of which could provide a final destination for this film.

The ambitious Freeman was inspired by his mother’s illness and resulting hospital visits, and on that alone, you’d want him to succeed. Here’s hoping that in the case of Cell Count 2, the sequel is better than the original.

– By Michele Galgana