The Signal

Written by on February 21st, 2008

The Signal sends a bloody, dystopian message.

If this guy were blindfolded, you’d be jealous

The brain-scrambling static that invades TV sets, radios, and telephones in The Signal is so powerful it makes people homicidal. You, too, may be feeling violently angry by the time the movie ends. Did writer-directors David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry—who passed the baton to individually helm the film’s beginning, middle, and end—sprinkle their reels with the script’s airwave-riding rage-ohol? Nope: The Signal just sucks.

It’s not the gimmick of patchwork filmmaking that’s the problem, exactly; the transitions are smooth enough. It’s the story itself that gets wearying. The movie is divided into three chapters, or “transmissions,” that share common characters Pulp Fiction-style. Anchoring the story, which begins on New Year’s Eve in a place called Terminus, is the triangle of Mya (Anessa Ramsey), her husband, Lewis (AJ Bowen), and her lover, Ben (Justin Welborn). In the first segment, directed by Bruckner, Mya is leaving Ben’s place, contemplating his proposal that they run away together, when his TV turns itself on and her cell phone won’t work. When she gets home, nearly everyone in her building has gone batshit—couples are screaming at each other, people are being dragged down the hallway, and even Lewis starts beating the hell out of one of his friends after the game they were watching is interrupted by Poltergeist-ian snow. Bush and Gentry take over for the second and third parts, respectively, which introduce us to new characters such as Anna (Cheri Christian), a sunny, pearl-wearing accidental murderer, and tonal changes—Bush goes for black comedy before Gentry returns to just plain black.

No single segment fails miserably, and each has moments of humor, tension, and originality. But overall, the movie’s a chore. The evil signal not only enrages people—and yes, the idea is exactly like that of Stephen King’s 2006 novel Cell—it makes them hallucinate, a detail the filmmakers handle so poorly you end up thinking WTF? as often as the characters. The violence is usually torture-porn brutal, with the frequency of kills increasing along with their ugliness. And, among many ridiculous scenes, the one in which someone literally jump-starts and interrogates a decapitated head summarily erases any chance you’ll take the script’s weak stab at social commentary—i.e., technology is destroying our minds—seriously.

8 Comments so far ↓

  1. Feb
    22
    2:21
    PM
    tricky b

    david cronenberg would be proud… or perhaps violated :)

  2. Sep
    16
    3:25
    AM
    Freeman

    The fact that you think the social commentary here was “technology is destroying our minds,” is perhaps a sign that it has done just that to yours. That’s such a sophomoric interpretation of the overall message here I can’t help but think you went into this movie with preconceptions. The fact that you use the term “torture-porn” does nothing to dissuade my suspicion. Give it a rest with that bullshit. Every edgy reviewer who sees a movie with blood in it has to trot it out these days and it’s frankly embarrassing.

  3. Sep
    16
    3:30
    AM
    Freeman

    “you end up thinking WTF? as often as the characters.”

    I mean, don’t you understand that… that’s the point? If you haven’t figured that out by the movie. Well, I don’t know. Watch it again and pay attention.

  4. Dec
    7
    3:18
    PM
    Vincent B

    What an awful review. Sounds like something she had to turn in in writing class.
    The signal is way too wild for you, girl. Go back to church.

  5. Oct
    18
    4:24
    PM
    rick

    Um, you make it sound like ”jumpstarting the head” literally worked, bringing it back to life - instead of being an hallucinogenic way for a highly screwed-up character to connect to his own, real observations.

    Perhaps you missed that, or think it was a cinematic misstep. I disagree.

  6. May
    13
    2:57
    AM
    Brandon

    this movie grew increasingly frustrating when there were obvious answers to the trouble they were in like quit staring and Run! or “Hey how about you kill the crazy guy who keeps killing everybody, he’s obviously crazy.”(just hit him with the shovel while hes fuckin talking to himself) or “Hey ben you pussy faggot you have a knife in your hands, stab the crazy guy”
    ALL IN ALL THE MOVIE SHOULD HAVE ENDED 20 TIMES BEFORE IT ACTUALLY DID

  7. Aug
    9
    3:11
    AM
    Moi

    I think some of you, the reviewer included, are frustrated film students. I would dare you all to do the same with what the directors had in terms of time and money. Seriously.

  8. Aug
    30
    12:06
    AM
    400metres

    “The evil signal not only enrages people—and yes, the idea is exactly like that of Stephen King’s 2006 novel Cell—it makes them hallucinate, a detail the filmmakers handle so poorly you end up thinking WTF? as often as the characters.”

    Wow, so much stupid in one terribly written sentence. Is this meant to be satire? Or was this review literally written by a 14 year old?

Spruce up your comments with
<a href="" title=""><abbr title=""><acronym title=""><b><blockquote cite=""><cite><code><del datetime=""><em><i><q cite=""><strike><strong>
New comments are moderated before being shown * = required field

Leave a Comment