Movie Review: SIGNSTouchstone Pictures
2002
PG-13

“There’s a monster outside my room, can I have a glass of water?”

Ex priest and widower Graham lives on a secluded farm in Pennsylvania with his two kids and younger brother. One morning, Graham awakens to find a set of mysterious crop circles have manifested in his cornfields, which sets off a chain of eerie events that eventually puts his life and his loved ones at a huge risk. Either the surviving members of Led Zeppelin are doing a cover shoot for another boxed set, or there’s an alien invasion afoot. Either way, be afraid…

Since he hit the scene with his suspense tour-de-force The Sixth Sense in 1999, M. Night Shyamalan has been tagged the “Twist Ending Guy” of movie makers. While that may be deserved (and works as both a blessing and a curse, when you think about it), what many going into one of his movies may miss entirely is Shyamalan’s incredible talent for writing completely fleshed-out and deeply character-driven scripts. Any writer can write a twist ending- it’s the rare ones that can make you care about the relationships with the characters that give the twists their full effect.

With Signs, I put off seeing it for quite some time since it came out in both theaters and on DVD, simply because I was a bit burned out on the whole “twist ending” thing. So, while I was house sitting for my sister and brother-in-law, I grabbed their copy and popped it in one night, and let it play. Must say, I can’t think of a better way to spend my time (actually, I could, but movie wise, really…). I found it well-written, well-directed, and well-acted by all the cast. First off, Mel Gibson is one of those actors I’d watch, simply because he’s in it. Wonderful casting decision there, as you just immediately connect with his tragic character, a man who struggles with his life, his loss of faith due to his wife’s death, and his relationship with his family. It’s genuinely touching, and I got attached to these people.

While the feel is very somber (like most Shyamalan films), there was some very unexpected humor in this film. The dialogue is very witty, and the chemistry between the actors (both the adult and child actors) was truly engaging. Even the quirky residents of the nearby town (that Army recruiter was a riot) gave a very real feel to the place. And that, my wonderful freaks, is what upped the horror ante in this movie. Because of the sharp repartee and genuinely warm chemistry between the cast, I found myself feeling comfortable and safe…then BANG! The film would drop a fear bomb in my lap, catching me completely off guard and making me wet myself. Figuratively. Really.

Without giving much away, for the few of you who haven’t seen this yet, the horror element worked because of the fact that it takes place in a self-contained environment with a handful of people I let myself get attached to, and a very minimalist approach that lets the viewer’s imaginations fill in the blanks. Which means, even though you don’t really see it until the very end, these things manage to scare you long before they’re revealed. And he does show us something, it’s much more effective. There are some truly chilling moments and the entire time, I felt uneasy. Which means, Signs did its job and then some.

Signs is, IMNSHO, a very well done and multi-layered suspense movie that does it right. I’m kicking myself for not having seen it sooner…

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