Signal, The

Directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry, 2007


Briefly, because a couple of people have asked me about it, here's my take on The Signal. I can understand why it's being celebrated in some quarters: The first act is a top-notch horror movie dealing with the effects of a mysterious transmission that, apparently, takes over every broadcast and cable television channel serving Terminal City (heh), amplifying the violent tendencies inside ordinary people until they manifest in explosive fits of brutality. (Talk about rage zombies!) Shot in low-grade HD, the movie picks up the story thread of Mya Denton (Anessa Ramsey), who, as the movie begins, wakes up in bed with her boyfriend and then goes home to her husband. Mya is a pretty, horror-movie blonde -- simultaneously tough and vulnerable -- and as long as we watch the story unfold through her eyes, hubby Lewis Denton (A.J. Bowen) moving through layers of rage as he seethes over her infidelity, The Signal is absolutely dynamite. It's like the lovechild of Cronenberg, Carpenter and Romero.

What I didn't understand when I sat down to watch was that The Signal is actually three movies by three different directors. So I was frustrated and saddened by what seemed like a sudden and dramatic loss of tonal control in the film's flabby second act, which is as loose and jokey as the first act is tense and riveting. A couple of the jokes are pretty good ones (keep an eye out for a very unusual murder weapon) so I was willing to endure the antics of a few random neighbors -- the main gag has to do with a New Year's Eve party that hasn't quite been canceled due to apocalypse -- even though all I really wanted to know was the fate of poor Mya, now vanished from the narrative. She returns, sort of, in the oppressively downbeat third act, which boasts even grimier videography, nonlinear narrative gimmickry, and just about had me on the floor snoring. It's rare to see a movie go downhill this fast.

The film's trailer (above), which is a good précis on its sadly squandered potential for awesomeness, draws almost exclusively on scenes from the film's first third. On the evidence, director David Bruckner deserves the chance to do more of this. His colleagues Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry have some 'splainin to do. C+
Posted by Bryant Frazer on June 20, 2008 8:24 PM
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