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Sundance ’07: Another Look At Magnolia’s ‘The Signal’

While we are still waiting on our final video interview from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, we have one more review for you, courtesy of B-D reporter Ryan Daley. As much as I was blown away by Magnolia Pictures’ acquisition, The Signal (old review), Ryan was far less impressed. You can read his mixed reaction inside. A mysterious signal is being transmitted from all media devices in the city of Terminus, provoking murder and madness within the psyches of its inhabitants. The film hits theaters August 10.
The Signal
6 out of 10
Ryan Daley

The Signal, about a mysterious electronic signal that invades people’s brains via televisions, cell phones, etc., gives the vague impression of having been cribbed from some other source, either Kurosawa’s Kairo, or its shitty American remake, Pulse, with maybe a little inspiration drawn from The Cell by Stephen King and/or The Crazies, that old Romero movie from ’73…it’s really hard to say. Not that The Signal isn’t well-directed and highly effective, it just smells a little bit derivative.

As a directorial collaboration between auteurs David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush, The Signal is ambitious but not seamless. Three intricately woven stories, or “transmissions”, share portions of the same narrative from different perspectives, and the fractured narrative is immediately reminiscent of the work of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros). An unfaithful wife and her lover experience the first outbreak of violence in the first third of the film, which serves as probably the most effective portion of The Signal. During a jarringly comedic second third, a sappy husband and wife duo prepare for a New Year’s Day party, but due to the outbreak of violence instigated by the Signal, very few guests arrive, with the hilarious exception of Jim Parsons, a pussy-obsessed neighbor who is forced to intercede when the Signal confuses the group, leading to more inevitable violence. The third and final portion involves the cuckolded husband’s attempts to find his wife at the bus station. Each segment was handled by a different director, and it shows, with obvious differences in tone and pacing between the three portions.

Much of the dialogue in The Signal involves character misidentification–as the Signal invades the brain, characters mistake each other for the wrong people, so that Lewis may think he’s carrying on a conversation with Clark, but he’s really talking to Mya and just doesn’t realize it, etc., and this rampant craziness makes for an occasionally frustrating film. However, every role in the film is enthusiastically performed, and a sense of emotional self-confidence comes through in the final product. Although not excessively scary or gory, The Signal is nonetheless engaging as far as independent horror films go. Blessed with a mordant wit, the film eventually manages to triumph as an honorable genre effort that makes up in energy what it loses in originality.

Source: Bloody-Disgusting