Do you like alien invasion movies? If the answer is yes, you probably know all about the movie we’re going to be talking about today. Signs is a different type of an alien invasion movie, more character-driven, subdued and because of those things, more frightening than the others. It was released three years after M. Night Shyamalan’s first big hit, The Sixth Sense, and offers improved storytelling and character development. It still wasn’t perfect but more about that later. This was actually the first Shyamalan movie that I saw and I loved everything about it.
Signs is a movie featuring a familiar setting, intense atmosphere, and freaking aliens. If that’s not a winning combination, I don’t know what is. We will be following a small family living on a remote farm who starts seeing some weird shit on their property. I know that crop circles are not that big of a deal now, but back then they were quite a big deal. It’s funny how things change over time and turn out to be nothing more than hoaxes. Moving on, M. Night has not made a movie but an extremely powerful pulse rifle with infinite ammo.
Every scene is perfectly set up and ties into the next one with one goal: to generate tension. And this rifle just keeps firing at the viewer, for almost ninety minutes. Full of mystery and dread, the atmosphere sucks you into this strange world. And before you know it, you start feeling like you live at that fucking farm. Signs is a movie that puts you in this state of trance, to put it bluntly. And in this state you’re focusing on your emotions, not thinking quite rationally. This is why you miss some of the mistakes and concepts you start noticing when you watch the movie for the second or a third time. Starring dependable Mel Gibson, talented Joaquin Phoenix, and even more Rory Culkin, the cast did a terrific job. Abigail Breslin’s character needed more development but what can you do, you can’t get them all.
God has abandoned Graham Hess, a former reverend, who now lives on a remote farm in Pennsylvania along with his brother and two kids. To be more precise, it might be Graham Hess, actually, who has abandoned god. However, when he discovers huge crop circles in one of his fields, he will start noticing strange things around him. Animals seem to be getting more and more aggressive and on television there are reports of strange lights appearing in the sky…
Since the movie is taking place on a remote farm, this is technically a “closed environment movie”. This, in turn, created a lot of claustrophobia that slowly morphs into agoraphobia as the story progresses. After all this praise, I should point out that the story is not so logical along with some of the decisions that characters make. Okay, most of the decisions. It’s like character creation in video games, you have a set number of points for stats so you can’t have strength 10 and wisdom 10, but more of a 7 to 3 ratio.
Here, because every scene had to be a generator of this frightening feeling, you couldn’t properly do character development or a decent story. In the end, who says that people wouldn’t be acting this way? If the last century taught us anything it’s that people can make some rather questionable decisions. Finally, one last remark, that religion shit was a bit hard to swallow, but I forgive him. So, although this is a science fiction movie, it has a pretty lame story and you should be prepared for that. Enjoy.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Marion McCorry, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, M. Night Shyamalan
Fun Stuff: M. Night says that the following three movies were the inspiration for Signs: The Birds (1963), Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).