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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.26%
Average: 26.09%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 2.17%

7 reviews, 4 user ratings

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Signal, The
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by Erik Childress

"Long Live The New Flesh...If You Haven’t Been Stabbed Already"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: It’s a nice change of pace to see a gimmick horror film without the need to pronounce its gimmick as the idea above all others. While you’re watching it you will be traveling down the road to understanding what that gimmick is, but since the film flows quite well from one act into another it’s the road that becomes the focus and not the slight of hand. Six hands actually, for the gimmick is behind the camera courtesy of David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry. Just as Pulp Fiction was three stories about one story, each director moves the horrific tale forward from all-out bedlam to dark comedy and ultimately to social commentary. Everyone is liable to have their favorite segment and each have their own merit. But before the story overshoots its boundaries, it’s a pretty gory good time.

In the city of Terminus on the eve of the new year, all communication appears to be down. Cell phones emit a screeching static and televisions are broadcasting a freakishly active test pattern. As Mya (Anessa Ramsey) is leaving the apartment of her adulterer lover, Ben (Justin Welborn), a man with a puncture wound cries out for her help. Fearing for her own health, she flees the scene and comes home to her suspicious husband, Lewis (A.J. Bowen). His buddies are over to watch the game, but they can’t pick up anything except the colorfully loud static. Lewis begins to give Mya the third degree over her whereabouts and soon enough, without warning, he takes a baseball bat to the skull of his friend.

Mya starts seeing similar behavior in her neighbors and runs for the nearest cover. Seeming like the perfect time to take Ben up on his offer to leave the city together, Mya heads out and hopes for a rendezvous. Other survivors then begin to take center stage. There’s Clark (Scott Poythress), a nice guy going with the flow of the morning. Anna (Cheri Christian) was expecting a number of party guests, but is now in shock after having to kill her husband. Lewis’ buddy Rod (Sahr Ngaujah) survived his wrath and for defense has fashioned maybe the greatest homemade weapon since Bruce Campbell attached a chainsaw to his wrist. Also searching the landscape is Lewis himself along with Ben, both searching for the woman they claim to love.

While Mya is a central figure of contention for the film’s drive, she remains mostly in spirit through a large middle chunk. One of The Signal’s greatest strengths and equal weaknesses is in keeping the audience off-kilter in getting attached to its characters. Just as certain ones appear to be major players, they become absentee in other segments – sometimes due to a surprisingly quick death. Bruckner kicks things off on a high note, much like Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. Visceral, energetic and shocking, it’s like a modern technological counterpart to the tongue-in-cheek grain of the 70s-era prologue.

Things begin to settle down in Bush’s second chapter as the action moves interior as characters try to figure things out. It’s quite an interesting section to as we’re left to seriously reevaluate one character’s motivations. Does he have “the crazy” or are his intentions truly of the survival sort; paranoid of everyone and everything around him including himself? The bizarro comedy works here on its own as a breather from the carnage we’ve seen and what’s on the horizon. Be warned that The Signal hits the flesh pretty hard at times and despite going to the skull smashing in part two a few too many times, it still gives Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible a run for that gruesome title.

Gentry’s wrap-up contains its share of moments but makes an overreach for the cerebellum that both robs The Signal of a slam-bang ending and gives an unnecessary phrasing to a message that works better when audiences make the connection themselves. Whether conservative or liberal, each side believes the other is out to poison the psyches of America and turn us all into mindless drones who attack first and think it through later. Thinkers or not, horror fans will find a lot to appreciate about The Signal. A flashback structure that sometimes gives us triple the point-of-view of the same scene gets a bit too extended for its own good. It also may not be the first technology-run-amok with films like Videodrome, Pulse (the Japanese original), the Kevin Dillon non-classic Remote Control and obvious similarities to Stephen King’s The Cell, but it certainly plants the seed that you’re looking forward to what’s next from these filmmakers.

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originally posted: 02/09/07 04:07:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell IT SUCKS 1 stars
1/06/09 FrankNFurter Shocking,artistic,disturbing horror/sci-fi.Like Night of the Living Dead on acid. Must see! 5 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
6/13/08 ES Was good, a bit over the top and confusing at moments 4 stars
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  22-Feb-2008 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jun-2008



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