Stars: A.J. Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Justin Welborn, Scott Poythress, Sahr Ngaujah, Cheri Christian, and Matt Stanton
Directed By: Jacob Gentry, Dan Bush, and David Bruckner
Runtime: 103 min.
Rated: R (heavy gore)
< NO SPOILERS >
The Signal is a well produced (independent) creepy horror film that combines the intensity of 28 Days Later and the mindless apocalyptic death of The Happening. Horror fans won’t be disappointed with this film, as there’s little holding back on the horrific violence and senseless anarchy. The film is broken down to three stories, all with different titles and directors. The three story concept is effectively used to combine the film, and give it a subtle Grindhouse vibe. However the film is one solid story with no intermissions or wacky B-movie trailers.
The Signal begins with our main character Mya (Ramsey) and her boyfriend Ben (Welborn) contemplating running away together. However frustrated she’s not ready to leave her husband, and reluctantly leaves for home. Having a lot on her mind she doesn’t notice that the people in the city seem to be wandering around in a daze, she’s more irritated that her car radio is producing some type of weird sound. Upon returning home she’s stunned as its 3 am, and almost everyone is violently wandering the halls of her apartment building. Making her way down the hall proves interesting as it resembles an mental asylum. Once safely inside her apartment she’s confronted with her husband Lewis (Bowen) and his friends Rod and Jerry (Sahr & Stanton). They seem to be upset that some weird signal has interrupted the sporting event they had planed to watch. Mya asks Lewis about the people in the hallway but he’s more concerned about where she’s been all night. This quickly changes as Lewis (acting like a paranoid meth tweaker) gets upset with Jerry for swinging a baseball bat near Mya’s head. The tension quickly escalates as Lewis starts to act without any consequence and kills Jerry with the bat. Mya freaks and runs out of the apartment. The hallway proves no safe haven as she watches a man slowly walk towards her, as he’s killing people with hedge clippers. Her friend across the hall opens up, but to Mya’s horror she’s quickly killed. Mya frantically makes her way back inside her apartment where she see’s her crazed husband bound to a chair with duct-tape, Jerry’s still dead, and there’s no sign of Rod. Mya takes one look at Lewis and runs for her life, as she’s now aware that the signal on the tv is turning everyone into crazy maniacs. Attempting to flee the building she’s thrown into a janitors closet by Rod. He seems to be unaffected, and they decide to get to out and leave the city. However after being exposed to the signal coming from Mya’s car radio, Rod tries to kill her. In an attempt to survive she crashes the car, grabs her walkman and sets out across town. Unaware her boyfriend and murderous husband are in pursuit.
The editing in the film is perfectly done, as clever flashbacks show us the horrific carnage that’s taking over the city through each characters point of view. The VFX are George Romero quality, and its hard to watch this and think independent film. This is another example of a classic horror film that missed out on greatness because of shit distribution. I was totally unaware of this until it was nominated for a Spirit Award. There are some tonal continuity issues I had with the middle part (story) of the film, as the fast paced tension turns a bit comical, and morphs into a Shaun of the Dead parody. Yet the story quickly rebounds back into its more intense 28 Days Later/The Happening theme in the 3rd act.
The Signal contains a lot of hard core horror, and “Ouch that’s gotta hurt moments”. The film has a dark surreal tone that is chilling at times, Its definitely a super dark apocalyptic horror film that will freak out the faint of heart. I wouldn’t let kids anywhere near this film. Since it doesn’t rely on a zombie angle the horror seems more realistic. If you pay attention you might even figure out what is generating the Signal.
The DVD contains some great bonus features (that I haven’t watched yet) : Deleted scenes, Inside the Terminus, the making of The Signal, Signal breakdown, Transmission intro, Transmission 14: Technical Difficulties, Transmission 23: The Return, Transmission 37: Crosstown Traffic, The Hap Hapgood story (a short film) The Signal, and a Directors commentary.