What Century is this?

Mobile phones ruin movies.

And not just in the ‘turn that fucking thing off before I make you eat it’ kind of way. I mean seriously, what the fuck is wrong with these people? This type of conversation might just be acceptable:

“Mum’s been hit by a bus? I’m on my way.”

If it’s followed by a swift exit.

This type of conversation is never acceptable:

“Yeah, so me and Donna, you know Donna, yeah? … That’s her, real fucking slapper. Anyway, me and Donna, were at Burger King yeah, and you’ll never guess what? … No, they forgot the fucking chips!”

Why are these people in the cinema? What the fuck possessed them to think sitting behind me (and they’re always directly behind me) in a noisy cinema is the best place to make a call about Donna-the-slag’s lack of fucking chips? Have they not paid to get in? Do they select the movie to match the type of phone call they’re going to make?

Fuck off and leave me alone!

Oh, look – I’ve gone off on a tangential rant already. I’m not talking about this, I’m talking about mobile phones in movies.

It seems to me that a large part of a scriptwriter’s job in the 21st Century is coming up with new and inventive reasons why mobile phones don’t work.

Most horror films would be over pretty quickly if the hero could just ring the police.

Most Rom-Com would be a lot shorter if boy rings girl and tells her it’s all a big mistake, don’t get on the plane.

Most ‘falsely accused’ films would be scuppered by the hero taking a photo of the real villain and texting it to his mates.

It amazes me in movieland how often people can’t get a signal; particularly since the only place I can’t get a signal anymore is in my own fucking house.

What is that about? No radio, DAB, mobile or TV signals can penetrate my house. What the fuck is it made of? And why? I can get a signal at the bottom of the Dartford tunnel, but not whilst sitting on my sofa.

Yet in movieland, mobiles hardly ever work – and when they do, no one really uses them:

“I need to tell you something.”

“You do? I’m on my way!”

And the guy hangs up and races across London. I saw this three times in an episode of Eastenders a couple of weeks ago. Three times this idiot ran halfway across London so someone could show or tell him something. On one occasion, he’d just left someone to run somewhere and when he got there, she demanded he come back.

I know it’s not desirable to impart information over the phone, but come on!

“I’ve got to show you something.”

“Oh fuck, but I just got here.”

“No, you need to see this, now!”

“Can’t you just send me a photo?”

“No, I’ve got an iPhone.”


“Err … no, but you can get it to do stuff by touching the screen.”

“Just nothing useful?”

Maybe that’s the answer? Give everyone in your script iPhones, then they won’t be able to send photos, videos or call each other since they’re all locked to the same provider and had to change their phone numbers.

Or perhaps all movies should just be set in the late eighties/early nineties?

Or, my personal favourite, an alternate universe where the mobile phone was never invented? Seems reasonable to me, it can be the same universe where computers boot up instantly, hackers are cool dudes and brand new cars fail to start until you’ve sworn at them/slapped the dashboard/got the killer on the bonnet.

Categories: Random Witterings, Rants | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “What Century is this?

  1. I can understand the inclusion, even in horror films – I remember watching Blair Witch first time and thinking “why not just use their goddam mobile phones” until someone pointed out that it was set in a time before mobiles.

    Re-watching early episodes of 24 is interesting: obviously Jack Bauer uses his mobile a lot (but still hasn’t succumbed to a bluetooth headset thank god!) but I’d forgotten how, in a very tense tracking-the-killer-in-dark-warehouse moment that he nearly got killed because someone called his mobile at that precise moment.

    Anyway – which provider are you with if you get a signal everywhere because I can’t get a fucking signal in most built up, heavily populated areas, let alone remote parts of the countryside.

  2. what’s with that “I need to tell you something!”/”I’m on my way!” telephone rubbish anyway?

    it’s like the situation where HERO COP realises his BELOVED WIFE is in grave danger and drives across town at full Michael Bay speed and i’m screaming at the screen “use a bloody phone!” (which, of course, probably wouldn’t work anyway….)

  3. James Moran

    You swine, I was in the middle of a blog post about this very thing…

    Anyway, it’s a right pain, any time I get a thriller or horror idea, I have to spend ages figuring out how to take the mobile phones out of the equation. Although in Severance I obviously just had them not get a signal. In my defense, they were in a large empty area of countryside in Europe, nowhere near a mobile tower or anything… At FrightFest this year, the “dammit, can’t get a signal” line was used so often, it began to get cheers and applause after the 20th time.

  4. I have an intirguing writer-mobile issue… I can’t stand mobiles (come to think of it don’t like landlines much… voices without heads? Not natural it is!) and promptly forget to use it. Consequently, I tend to forget they exist so forget that most ‘normal’ people have them surgically attached to their faces and forget to write that people own and use them. My mobile hasn’t a camera or video and I forget that too. It’s just like the 1980’s again…

  5. Halloween H20 stomps on a lot of these clichés quite nicely in the prologue, where Dr. Loomis’ assistant finds that her house has been broken into, so goes next door to shelter with the neighbours, and calls the police. And still gets killed.

    Much scarier if people react in as reasonable a way as possible and still die.

  6. Tom: T-mobile. Although no provider can penetrate my EM proof house.

    I read a spiderman comic where he nearly gets killed by his mobile ringing – a little later, I read one where he was back to perching on phoneboxes to make calls. Presumably on the grounds it looks cooler.

    David: Every time I see that scene, the wife is on the phone to someone else. If that was me I’d just leave a message and then go for a burger. I think morally, I’d have achieved my goal.

    James: I’ve learnt how to hack into your computer and intercept your blog posts. It’s a fairly useless skill – but it keeps me amused.

    Not getting a signal in Severance makes sense, and even when Maggie found a phone no-one could understand her. My wife was shouting something at the TV about calling the police during the last act – I asked her what the police number was for any random Eastern European country – but she didn’t know. She’s an air hostess and actually goes to these countries, so there’s no reason why a bunch of office-bound muppets should know either.

    Jon: I don’t think you’re alone. Until four years ago, I never had a mobile and neither did any of my characters. I even specifically kept mobiles out of one script because I always intended to do an ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ style alien invasion sequel where aliens are controlling people via their phones. The heroes were two of the last four people on the planet without phones and the only who could save the day.

    Oddly enough, mere years after I allowed the characters to have mobiles, the script was optioned.

    Oli: Absolutely, give them a phone, make it work and make it absolutely fucking useless to them.

  7. Phones are fucking useless anyway. Ways to render a phone useless without resorting to “no signal”: battery dead (I’m always doing this). No credit (I’m always doing this too). Forgetting to take phone with you (every other day when I go to work). Dropping it in beer rendering it useless (I can’t be the only one, surely?).

    Oh, and standard emergency number in Europe is 112. I remember this only because of an amusing incident with a cat, a phone and an early morning wake-up call from the police during Euro ’96. Works everywhere in Europe.

    Except Bulgaria.

  8. I’ve dropped a phone in the toliet before, that was an interesting moment.

    I’ve got one character who spends a film phoneless because his best mate threw it at the TV in a reflex action when Eastenders wasn’t turned off quickly enough.

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