Monday, December 31, 2012

#868. Signs (2002)

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin

Tag line: "The first sign you can't explain. The second sign you can't ignore. The third sign you won't believe"

Trivia: James Newton Howard started scoring the film before it had been shot, as he was able to work from M. Night Shyamalan's detailed storyboards

With Signs, director M. Night Shyamalan has crafted a tense, frightening motion picture in which a man who has lost his faith in God comes face-to-face with aliens from another world.

Mel Gibson is Graham Hess, a recent widower residing in a large farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his two young children, Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin). Also living with them is Graham's younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix). 

Merrill moved in following the death of Graham’s wife, who was struck by a car while out walking one evening (the driver, a neighbor named Ray, is played in a couple of scenes by director Shyamalan). For many years, Graham was an ordained minister, but gave it up after his wife's death. Now, he goes through life believing we’re all alone in this world, and that there is no God.

But something is amiss in Graham's small community. All of the animals have been acting strangely the past few days, and, while out playing one morning, Morgan and Bo stumble upon some crop circles in the middle of a corn field. Is this the work of beings from another planet? 

Of course not, says Graham and Merrill. That is, until similar circles start appearing by the hundreds, in all corners of the globe. And then there is the elusive intruder Graham and Merrill chase off one evening, who manages to escape by jumping onto the roof of the house… 10 feet off the ground! 

In nearly every town and neighborhood around the world, people are certain the end is coming, brought about by extra-terrestrials. Even Graham is suddenly convinced when he has a close encounter of his own, and like everybody else, wonders if mankind can survive an invasion from outer space.

Signs is a solidly entertaining science fiction film, offering up several memorable sequences that center on its otherworldly visitors. My favorite involves a news report from South America, featuring footage shot at a child’s birthday party, that gives the world (and the audience) its first glimpse of an alien creature. Moments such as this, combined with a handful of truly suspenseful scenes late in the film, do their part to make Signs a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat thriller. 

Yet, like Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, Signs relates this amazing tale as a backdrop to its very touching human story, about a father whose loss of faith is tearing his family apart. Gibson is wonderfully understated as Graham, a man so deeply wounded by life that he has turned his back on his beliefs. Signs is as much about Graham’s personal dilemma as it is about aliens, and in my opinion, it tells both stories extremely well.


kim the hippie said...

I have to agree about signs. And doesn't it really say something about that maybe we aren't alone in the cosmos. I was scared S**tless the first time I saw it and still jump at most of the scenes with the aliens. But the best part was we did not succumb to them and it shows that we can come together as a people and survive any crisis.

David said...

Dr. Shock you're the horror movie podcast host that I find myself agreeing with more than any of the others but I have to admit I recall really not liking this movie. I remember thinking that it was (aside from the stunning news footage scene you mentioned) bland and really corny. However I'm tempted to give it a re-watch after reading this review as it has been a long time since I've seen it.

I'm really enjoying this site by the way, as well as being an admirable feat it's a great resource to just browse through and find out about all kinds of forgotten classics and wacky oddities.

- David