Really odd looking static - or something - is coming out of a television screen. A guy wakes up, watches it for a moment, then shuts it off. His name is Ben (Justin Wellborn: THE OTHER SIDE) and he lies back down next to his lover, who jumps out of bed when she learns what time it is. Her name is Mya Denton (Anessa Ramsey) and she has to get back to her husband. Ben invites her to stay and never go back, but Mya, though tempted, has unfinished business at home.
Making her way to her car in the underground parking lot, she's asked for help from a suspicious man who is cagey about just what he needs help for. Soon she is speeding out of the parking lot in fear.
At home, things are no better. It's after midnight, her husband, Lewis (AJ Bowen: CREEPSHOW III) and his two friends are having trouble with the TV set - which is sending out a weird blur of static - or something - and judging from their attitudes, a fight is about to break out. The only one trying to calm everyone down is Rod (Sahr Ngaujah aka Michael Ngaujah). Soon Mya is running out of her apartment from the murderous nightmare within. But what's going on in the hall is much worse. As death approaches, and afraid to return to her own apartment, Mya beats on the door of her friend and next door neighbor. Her friend opens the door, only to grab Mya and begin smothering her - all the while telling her to relax. Mya tries to tell her neighbor that death is approaching, but her friend is already death, and trying to kill her.
Something hideous is happening, and we have an idea that it is caused by the odd static that appears on television, and the odd static sound that is coming through every radio and cell phone. It is turning people into psychopathic murderers.
That's not the way the homicidal maniacs see it
Through three separate but connected stories as written and directed by three separate directors David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry, THE SIGNAL tells the story of an unexplained event that is coming through our electronic devices. Similar to KAIRO (PULSE in the U.S.), THE SIGNAL never pulls the supernatural cop out, and thus remains all the more realistic. By focusing mainly on characters instead of eye candy SFX, it also stays grounded in a realism that can usually only be found in low budget horror thriller.
The three interlocked stories of THE SIGNAL are nothing short of breathtaking as all of the people involved are kept to an ever present moment of now - and anything could erupt, threatening their lives in the very next second.
What sets THE SIGNAL so far apart from other stories of a world gone mad and a small band of survivors is that the movie doesn't stay in the head of the survivors. Unlike INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, DAWN OF THE DEAD or 28 DAYS LATER, THE SIGNAL gets into the mind and thoughts of those who've been affected by the murderous message coming through the static. We get the chance to witness their madness through their eyes; to see how threatening their world has become. Mya's husband, Lewis, knows he's crazy and is trying to bring himself back - but he can't do it alone and he can't trust all of the dangerous people around him - some of whom are also affected.
Like most things, different people are affected to a greater and lesser extent when subjected to THE SIGNAL. Some need to hear or watch it only for a few seconds to turn. Others must be exposed for minutes at a time. Some come right out of the effect soon after they stop watching it. Others can be affected piecemeal: a little of the signal here, added to a little of the signal there.
Soon even the crazies, terrified and angry, are loudly, verbally trying to explain their condition in the hopes of understanding what is happening to them, in the hopes of containing their fear. Both auditory and visual hallucinations enter into it.
Amazingly, Bruckner, Bush, and Gentry, dive deep into the psychotronic madness of their subjects without ever losing themselves, their story, or their audience in it all. In doing so they also avoid the hack-driven worn out clichés of so many other movies of this type.
1. THE SIGNAL isn't the result of stupid Scientists unleashing a dangerous technology upon the world.
2. THE SIGNAL is not the result of an evil Capitalist U.S. Corporation trying to control us.
3. THE SIGNAL isn't the result of an evil Republican led U.S. Government trying to control us.
Unfortunately one cliché that even independent Hollywood films can't seem to avoid is the
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!:
All of the actors in this film played their roles with incredible power, but I have to give extra kudos to the actor who played Clark (Scott Poythress). Scott played the most variation in his role as a man unaffected, then turned, then slowly trying to find his way back, then nearly back to normal yet haunted by what he'd done and witnessed, and finally, trying to help others come back from the brink. That Scott accomplished all of that so convincingly with so little screen time was amazing.
I took an extra day to consider what I would write for this movie, especially after I'd already handed 5 Shriek Girls to a movie just last week: But there is no doubt in my mind. Fun, Gory, Horrifying, Thrilling, Scary, and with just a touch of humor, this bizarre movie dwells in the small circle of films like ALIEN, John Carpenter's THE THING and yes, even David Cronenberg's VIDEODROME. THE SIGNAL is one of the best Science Fiction Horror Thrillers ever made!
5 Shriek Girls!
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