Sunday, January 20, 2008

Film Review: "The Signal" (A)

I was really pleasantly surprised by this movie, which had a screening at Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. I knew a little bit about it ahead of time, had seen some positive responses, but I went in expecting nothing so that I wouldn't end up being disappointed.

"The Signal" is a great movie about a transmission that fucks everyone who watches/hears it up and makes them have a murder party in the streets. It's a fantastic mix of horror, comedy and even a little sci-fi. The film is broken up into three parts, which I thought was going to be a stupid idea at first, but ultimately it served the film well. Each segment didn't give too much away and it gave you the chance to get to know all the characters well enough that you connected with them, especially Ben and Maya.

I love how the movie started - it had me on the edge of my seat. Most post-apocalyptic movies don't show the actual moment when everything goes wrong, but this one did ... and it handles it very well. Everyone was dying or going fucking nuts and you feel for Maya hiding underneath the table. The great thing about the first transmission is that it is brutal and unrelenting, forcing you to identify with the confusion and general craziness going on. It's a fantastic start to the film - especially since all of the actors are on point and likeable (even Lewis, to an extent).

What's great about the second transition is that it's very comedic. It has some horror elements to it (the way people die), but it lulls you into this false sense of security that the film will slow down. But even when it's technically a bit more comedic than the other two, the action never really stops. The ding dong of the door bell is a great ice-breaker, but it also serves up tension. You, too, are sitting there wondering who the fuck is it behind that door. The actor who plays Lewis is delightfully crazy, while the new guy at the door who is fucking moronic has some hilariously fun lines.

The third transmission is a bit more convoluted and goes back to the serious and more macabre tone of the first. I thought it was a fine way to end the film, particularly since I had a great deal of affection for the character Ben. I also just loved the way they wrapped with a sense of hope, but still retained the dark feel that characterizes the film throughout. I loved the headphones - an emotional touch without being too emotional, which can be a risk. Oftentimes, horror films will try to add a touch of emotion or humanity in a situation that isn't humane. And what happens? It ends up being corny or just plain stupid. This movie escapes many of those regular traps and ends up crafting a story that is not only genuinely entertaining, but also very believable.

"The Signal" is one of the better, if not one of the best, independent horror movies I've seen in awhile. It's great when small horror films like this prove their worth. Given my affection for post-apocalyptic horror anyway, I was insanely pleased to walk out of this one with something awesome to write about. This one definitely has the makings to become a cult classic, although I wish it would garner a wider following than that (although it isn't likely).

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