In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No Signal.

I know people who like to illegally download movies off the Internet. I, myself, don’t generally condone such practices and there are two reasons for this. First, you will never convince me that watching a movie on a computer monitor is the same as watching it on your television or in a theatre. The second reason is I am of the generation that is used to ‘purchasing’ a physical product, or at least renting the use of it. Getting something for nothing is a concept that still seems foreign to me. This is not the case with the youth of today, who are growing up in a world where EVERYTHING is at their fingertips. Bit Torrent, the evolution of Peer-to-peer networking sites like Kazaa and Morpheus, makes the transmission of data even faster. But I’m getting off topic here.

Let’s rewind a few months. There was a horror film that premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival called The Signal. It was there that it was picked up by the indie film company Magnolia Pictures. As 2007 went on, The Signal garnered more and more online buzz, receiving a huge push from, which is now probably the biggest horror site on the Web. By the time 2008 rolled around, a February 22nd release had been announced and I had put it at #7 on my most anticipated horror list. If you are a Canadian reader, I bet you can imagine where this is going. February 22nd rolled around with nary a Canadian screening. Ha Ha, fuck you, no Signal for you! Theatre goers in California got to dodge knives (literally) in theatres while we up here in the Great White North were shafted once again. This, ever frustrating, happens all the time. Sometimes they will even do a full on cock tease. I remember actually SEEING a coming soon poster for David Twohy’s 2002 film Below at my local AMC and yet the release date came and went.

Well, guess what? We are not living in an era where we Canucks have to eat shit and like it when great films like Donnie Darko and High Tension are withheld from us. If I want to see the The Signal and it is willfully being kept from me, then I CAN acquire it another way. It is simple supply and demand. I would have gladly forked over my twelve bucks, but you took that option away. Now, there are consequences for such actions. It’s about time you fix this broken system Hollywood, or soon it may be YOU who is left holding the bag.

So, without going into any details, I ‘somehow’ saw The Signal recently. Here are my thoughts.

One day, all forms of media (TV, cell phones etc) are hijacked by a mysterious frequency that causes mass psychosis and hysteria. Mya (Anessa Ramsey) desperately tries to navigate her way out of the city, with her infected husband Lewis (AJ Bowen) and her new lover Ben (Justin Welborn) right on her tail.

The Signal is one bizarre film. I had heard previously that it was one story broken into three acts – called transmissions – done by three separate directors (David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry), but it still didn’t prepare me for what was to come. The movie starts off with an intro sequence that looks like it came right out of a grindhouse era slasher. I knew that this had to be some sort of false opening ala The Last Horror Movie, but considering the duration of it, I was actually starting to wonder if I had the right flick. Eventually though, the first transmission (the best imo) begins and chaos erupts 28 Days Later style. There is not much new going on here, but this subgenre is my favourite, so it’s pretty hard for me not to enjoy product like this. The shit hits the fan, the survivors grab makeshift weapons and head for the hills.

Then, the second transmission starts. This is where The Signal goes haywire. This director turns the movie into a comedy horror slapstick joint that is COMPLETELY in contrast to the first act. I really can’t decide whether this works or not. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the festivities, but at the same time, I was always wishing the movie would get back on track. It was like I was watching one of those shorts they put on in between features on The Movie Network*. The actors are really the only thing (apart from the ubiquitous signal of course) that keep you aware that you are watching the same movie.

Finally, the third act gets going. This one is the more cerebral of the three, focusing mainly on how the signal affects everyone’s minds. I’d say that overall The Signal is fairly average fare. It’s unfortunate, but the unorthodox format is sadly the only thing that makes The Signal stick out from the crowd. It’s a good experiment though and kudos to the filmmakers for being bold enough to try it. Keeping the source of the signal ambiguous was a good choice and they should be proud of what they accomplished with the small budget.

The Signal is worth checking out for curiosity’s sake, but just be aware you will not be getting the intense, action-heavy flick the trailer would have you believe.

* - The Movie Network (or TMN) is the Canadian equivalent of HBO.

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