Tuesday, May 26

Some quick thoughts on The Signal (2007)

Why does everyone have a 42" silver framed flat panel?

The opening sequence, dubbed Transmission I, waves at the border of familiar brilliance by tapping into the fear of a quick and easy fall of civility bought upon society by a nearly unstoppable force. Much like Romero's seminal Dawn of the Dead. Raw, unpredictable, and dangerous.


Despite not being a zombie flick, something close to what I've always thought has been solely glossed over in such films is explored a little. The simple inborn revulsion humans have towards death and scenes of death. It's not so much that they want to eat you, but the human connection and horror of seeing and smelling death...and they're walking. Most work in this subgenre skim the top or don't touch upon this at all--opting to go with a more "let's create some mindless gore." Even Romero hasn't fully explored these possibilities, but he has dug the deepest in this respect for undead cinema. Here there's a small scene of a survivor letting go a flood of panicked logic after a night of terror to the first other "normal" person he finds. Capturing the desperation of applying reason to unspeakable chaos, the monologue emerges a stunning piece of memorable pathos and the kind of drama all-too-rarely found in the genre today.

the actors ponder the tarnished screenplay as the viewer checks his watch

Unfortunately, the second sequence seems determined to shatter this power and plunge into one of the most annoying problems with modern indie horror today--the compulsion to be cheeky. There's far too much cutesy levity and misdirected character focus that I actually felt bad seeing such starting potential burn away by the minute. It works in a broad sense, since the characters are under the disorganized spell of the signal, but that doesn't mean one has to like it. I will say the compelling notion of the ease that comes with rage, both in the "normal" and the crazed, is pleasingly fleshed out from the beginning. You just have to wade through proceedings that smack of a young director's forced calling card. Towards the end of this particular segment, the three central characters begin converging again, feelling like the first clear breathes after nearly drowning.

can't stop the signal...

The final sequence gets the story back up to almost full power and settles in for a solid finish. Still, the exhilaration of the beginning ultimately isn't unmatched. It's the fault of none of the actors, direction, or other elements seen on-screen, but a blemish for the tri-scribed screenplay to saddle the entire piece with such a languid midpoint. I'd give the overall film a score of somewhere between 7 and 7.5 with a few snippets well exceeding that. It could have very well been a classic...


I Like Horror Movies said...

I think there are some brilliant and some equally annoying and distracting moments in the second transmission, but overall I still thought it offered something unique and entertaining, very happy to read more thoughts on a film thats quickly climbing my charts!

Johnny 666 said...

Thats cool, despite the few negatives, it sounds pretty solid to me. It just got released over in quaint little Ireland, so I will be watching it soon.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your review 98% - I was actually a lot harsher on it when I watched it. For me, if a movie falls down halfway through, I am pretty merciless in damning it as a piece of shit.

It does not sit well in the memory for the reasons you cite, but thank you for reminding me of the good stuff at the beginning. In fact, thank you for reminding me this film exists - I guess it *really* doesn't sit well in the memory...

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?

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