I’ve been sitting on this review for a goodly while now, and it’s just not getting any easier to proceed with. Some of the delays were valid, some were due to being busy, but still mostly I’ve just been stuck. Somehow or other I caught wind of this indie horror film, The Signal. Very limited release (two theaters in the area), interesting concept reminiscent of Cell by Stephen King, and some of the descriptions implied that it was also very funny. Which sounds like basically everything I’d want out of a movie. I even talked Jessica into going, though she claims to find such movies far too scary. (And yet she watched 28 Days Later. This is a dichotomy that warrants further consideration.)
So, one night in the thematically named city of Terminus, a staticky image appears on all of the televisions (which are turning themselves on), and staticky sounds emerge from all of the cellphones, landlines, and airwaves. And after a very short period of time, some people are affected. The short description is that they’re all going crazy, but from the characters that we got to spend time with, I’d say instead that they are all being amplified. Whatever primary emotion they are feeling, be it resentment, jealousy, fear, concern, most everything is being blown out of all proportions, such that people are wandering the halls and the streets, committing wanton murder. In the midst of this, we are presented with a love triangle between a woman, her husband, and her lover, which is an excellent use of the background space, particularly after the husband seems slightly unhinged even before any serious effects of the signal are being felt. The story is told in three parts, one from the perspective of each member of the triangle, which is potentially interesting. And it is written by three different writers, which is more or less disastrous. The first portion focuses on the fear and claustrophobia of both the external and internal situations, and was extremely well done. The second portion is a black comedy, and also extremely well done, except for how little it fits with the first act. And the finale is a surrealist nightmare which was possibly well done, except that it failed to match the previous two acts in a new and different way, as well as suffering from the modern short story’s flaw of going all confusing right at the end and allowing you to draw your own conclusions about What Really Happened. That choice is so far outside the horror genre that I have no choice but to be offended and rule the movie lame. Which is a pity, as prior to the last ten minutes, flawed or not, it had at least been constantly interesting.