OCTOBER 20, 2007
All year I have been hearing about The Signal, most of it good (though one friend hated it, calling it “Horror for people who drink lattes”, which is hilarious even if I disagree). So expectations were high, but luckily they were met...
...for the first hour. The film is presented in 3 acts, or “transmissions”, and while I loved the first two, the third sort of fell apart, becoming repetitive and gimmicky.
Each part had a different director, and while it doesn’t really show in terms of shooting style, storywise they are admirably unique from one another. The first (also the best) is a straight up, “beginning of an apocalypse” style episode, as the signal (which comes from TV, not cell phones as some have reported in comparing it to Stephen King’s (inferior) novel titled "Cell") hits. The outbreak scenes are intense, and not without some humor. This is good, because the 2nd story is almost ALL humor. It’s a day later, and while some people are fully aware of what’s happening, others are oblivious, reflected by a new year’s eve party in which one character is so hell-bent on getting laid that he doesn’t seem to mind the fact that his friends are covered in blood from previous actions. There’s some great, dry comic touches throughout this part, plus more broad moments. Not much happens in terms of action in this part; if the first part was Night of the Living Dead, than this is more Shaun of the Dead.
That leaves the 3rd part, which is, I dunno, Not Very Good Movie of the Dead. While not a disaster, it just doesn’t offer any new characters or situations. Also, one side effect from the signal is that the affected person will confuse people in reality (so for example, one character “sees” his wife when the person is really a stranger), a gimmick that is overused and fairly obnoxious in this section; the film reaches a point where people are claiming to be other people to further add to the confusion. It would be fine had they DONE something with the concept, but it’s merely smoke and mirrors; serving only to provide the film with a more “exciting” climax.
Still, it’s not enough to totally derail the film, and it’s astounding how good the film looks considering how little it was shot for. Atlanta is a vastly underused shooting location, especially in horror, so that helped give the film a different look (rather than the umpteenth cinematic end of the world via Los Angeles). The acting is also quite good across the board, all unknowns.
The film is being released by Magnolia, who also released 2 of the year’s most interesting horror movies – The Host and Severance (and also the not-really-horror Right At Your Door, an apocalypse film set in... Los Angeles). Hopefully they won’t become another Lion’s Gate (a studio that is rapidly becoming another Dimension), because so far they are 4 for 4 this year.
What say you?