If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This is one of those little gems that you find in your movie travels one late night on some odd day. It’s the kind of movie that you pick up, having never heard of it before, because the summary intrigues you and makes you want to kill a few hours with some R-rated goodness. That’s how I was introduced to The Signal, and I hope that after you read this review you’ll have that same “it can’t hurt” kind of attitude I had when I gave it a watch.
While I can’t technically group this in with the zombie apocalypse crowd, I can’t really leave it out of that circle either. Instead of a leaked virus turning people into man-eating walking dead, it’s a signal being broadcast over every cell phone, radio, and television that turns people into killing machines. It kind of takes the genre and flips it on its head saying “what happens if man is the monster”, pitting the main characters against thinking, unhinged human beings, and the concept scares me. There’s no reasoning with these people, they just kill you on the spot, no questions asked, without a sliver or remorse. There’s a particular scene with a pair of hedge clippers that ranks up there in my “GOOD GOD” intense movie moments. It’s brutal, unforgiving at times, and the perfect movie to pop into the player if you’re looking for a good heart pounding this Halloween.
(Image courtesy of lostatsea.net)
So what makes this movie special? The Signal was directed by three different people, separated into three different “transmissions”, and put together to create a whole puzzle that is pieced together as things unfold. Each transmission has its own style and feel, taking on a different perspective in the increasingly insane world that we’re thrust into, and I thought the intermingling of storylines worked out extremely well. The characters weave in and out of each other’s paths, narrowly missing one another at times, and I loved how it came together. If only for its structuring, the movie does what it does so well that it instantly became one of my favorites. The movie has its fare share of flashbacks and flash forwards, filling in the audience as to what Character B was up to while Characters A and C were trying to survive during the last transmission. In the end, the different perspectives and different storylines provide a well-rounded picture of how different people are experiencing the signal. We get a glimpse of the sane mind, a ridiculously funny account of what the world feels like to those who have been affected, and a mind bender of a wrap up for all parties involved
(Image courtesy of wired.com)
Now let me stop here and clarify “ridiculously funny” because this is where a lot of critics I’ve read had problems with the film. Each transmission is directed with its own style and atmosphere. While the three directors manage to keep a constant feel throughout the film, never straying too from the dark reality of what’s happening, each section is almost like its own short story. The first transmission is a straightforward horror/thriller. The movie could have ended (given a little more explanation as to where Character A was going next) and I would have been very happy with the half hour short film I’d just seen. Then transmission two comes in, firing on completely different cylinders. What started out as a suspense flick that had me holding my breath did an expertly performed 180 and turned into a gut-busting dark comedy on par with Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland. No joke, I was laughing out loud at some of the craziness that ensued in the second transmission. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a movie take a turn like this. It was strange, but exciting and fun and I really enjoyed it. And then to be able to reel things back in and amp up the thrills all over again, it takes some skill.
(Image courtesy of filmmakermagazine.com)
When all is said and done, The Signal is one tasty movie treat. Perfect for a night of suspense, the movie is an example of how collaboration can come together correctly. Can you imagine big-name directors approaching a film like these directors did, and pulling it off just as well? How about a Clint Eastwood, Danny Boyle, Martin Scorsese mashup? Or a Christopher Nolan, Stephen Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola foray? I mean CAN YOU IMAGINE!? But that’s not what I’m here to do, I’m here to tell you to go pick up a copy of The Signal and enjoy the madness that ensues. Highly recommended.