Back in the day, having the killer cut the phone line before striking was a standard ploy of action and horror films (see "Die Hard" or the "Halloween" franchise). But as people started ditching land lines for cell phones in the late-1990s and 2000s, filmmakers had to come up with something more "believable" for their flicks.
Enter the cell phone with no reception. Zero. In the desert. In the car. In the dodgy part of town. Seriously, what phone company do these people use? (Pop Sugar has an entertaining compilation of 66 movies where the cell phone gets no signal or experiences some other kind of telecom catastrophe).
And that's not the only example of movie malfunctioning malfeasance. There's the dead car battery, the empty gas tank, the smoking engine. You get the idea – in films, the most basic and commonly used objects are often rendered totally useless, particularly when they're most needed. Like when a character is stranded in the middle of nowhere. This is illustrated in films like "The Hills Have Eyes," which features a storyline centered entirely on the classic Podunk vehicle breakdown [sources: Accomando, entertainment.ie].