Here’s a little history lesson: remember the scene in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood when Ed (Johnny Depp) tells a studio co-worker he could make an entire movie out of off-the-rack stock footage? That exchange may have been fictional — but the real Ed Wood actually did use tons of stock footage in his films, hoping it would add production value. Well, it didn’t really do that — but it certainly made his movies even more bizarre than they already were.

Today, movie tech is accessible to anyone who can afford a modest licensing fee, and any filmmaker — no matter how low their budget — can incorporate expensive-looking stock shots into their movies and viewers may never know it.

That’s what makes artist-writer-filmmaker Dan Litzinger’s horror short CELL such an interesting project: the story he creates using only stock footage (licensed from online library Envato Elements) is just as creepy and nightmarish as any film shot from scratch. It’s also very timely, as it references the Coronavirus outbreak and the shelter-in-place scenario most of us find ourselves in now. See for yourself!

As with all good cinema, the story’s the thing — and that story is built around a haunting voice-over recorded by accomplished screenwriter Jared Rivet (Jackals, Are You Afraid of the Dark?), who also lends his vocal skills to his own popular audio-drama podcast Earbud Theater. Even the sound effects are from the audio forum FreeSound.org, and the musical score is almost entirely sourced from Soundstripe.com.

“This film began as an experiment to see if I could tell a compelling story using only stock footage,” Litzinger explains. “I had a lot of fun making this and I’m very grateful for all the help from my friends.”