Rav goes gaga for the indie horror film, THE SIGNAL at Sundance & stays up to tell you all about it!
Published at: Jan. 23, 2007, 5:02 a.m. CST by headgeek
Hey folks, Harry here - Every once in a while there's a horror film at Sundance that's just fucking awesome. Now, it's true - I haven't seen THE SIGNAL, but I'll tell you this. Rav is a bitch to satisfy in this genre. However, when he loves a horror film, it's a doozy. I guarantee if he says this horror film is what he says it is, it is. And folks, if it's as good as this... it's a great one.
Okay right now its about three in the morning, Im supposed to get up to be at a screening at seven in the morning. So ordinarily Id be asleep right now, but I have just found myself unexpectedly blown away by a little horror film at Sundance that I wasnt really expecting much from. That film is:
The Signal - Written and Directed by David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, Dan Bush
Okay first of all let me get the general crazy hype out of the way. This may very well be the best independently made horror film of the past ten years. Its quite easily the best one in the past five years, and the most entertaining film at the festival this year. It also marks the major debut of three very talented directors and a group of amazing local Atlanta actors.
The film starts off with clips from an old seventies exploitation film being played on late night TV with the opening title set right in the same font of a seventies exploitation movie. (Apparently this clip is from a short film that one of the guys directed) The clip segues into a weird static mess thats like something out of a cronenberg film, the camera pulls back revealing a man (Justin Welborne) watching this signal on his television. For another five or ten minutes the main characters, Mya (Anessa Ramsey) a pretty blonde girl and Lewis (A.J. Bowen) her husband, are introduced and then in a few moments of insanity all hell breaks loose and man wielding hedge clippers starts killing people in their apartment hallway, in their apartment others are killing each other, everyone has gone insane in an instant.
That first scene in the hallway is one of the most bizarre, frightening, awesome sequences Ive ever seen in my entire life. The film shares a lot of inspiration from Romeros Crazies and of course Dawn of the Dead, as well as most recently 28 Days Later, which one of the directors credited in the Q&A with revitalizing his love for the genre. One thing I love is that they are not zombies, but just regular people just driven with this insatiable bloodlust that is running through the airwaves. Another few scenes involve one of the characters fashioning this home-made weapon consisting of a coat-rack, duct-tape, and a whole hell of a lot of kitchen knives, the weapon is just fucking awesome.
What is most compelling about the feature is the production value that was gained on something that is most probably a considerably low budget. But you could not tell that by looking at the film, the film is full of wide locations that give the feeling of a full-scale production. Even at a couple points it has roof-top aerial shots with many extras running and killing each other. This stuff rivals anything in Land of the Dead or the Dawn of the Dead remake, its really jaw-dropping things.
The other surprising thing is that there is a hell of a lot of comedy in this film, starting off with regular black humor comprising of knee-jerk murders of people who-may-or-may-not-be infected. Though as the film draws further to the third transmission it gets more and more insane.
The actual written score for the film is very compelling moody stuff, but the musical piece in the film thats most memorable is a cover of Lou Reeds Perfect Day by Jon Thomas Hall. Its on a mix-CD given by Justin Welborne to Anessa Ramsays character, she continually uses her walkman CD player to walk through the city-streets and drown out the noise of the insanity around her and possibly the signal that is contributing to all the madness.
The film is composed of three separate segments each directed and written by a different one of the directors, but while the different parts have their own wonderful unique qualities they are still very much composing one fluid film. There is nothing about the film that feels amateur or indie in any way, the film has the look and feel of a big budget studio horror film except with a hell of a lot of heart and a wonderful script.
The cast in the film is top notch and I hope they stick with their Atlanta crew, as once this thing hits big they will surely have offers flowing in from everywhere. AJ Bowens portrayal of Lewis is a particular highlight as he is a major part of all three transmissions in the film and finds himself varying from evil villain, scorned husband, to kooky freaked out guy that may or may not be insane, but god damnit hes entertaining. Anessa Ramsey is quite sexy and delightful to watch her persist in the wake of hundreds of insane people running after her. Justin Welborn is also damn good too.
Most of all the best thing about The Signal is the arrival of David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry as major modern genre filmmakers. If the major studios are smart, one of them will buy the film and give their production company a blank check to have all three direct their own stand-a-lone feature films. These three guys are very exciting, thank god horror is fucking cool again, fuck Saw sequels, I want to see a new film from these guys every year. David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry are the future of horror. (and well also Samurai Karaoke movies if I heard them at the Q&A correctly)
Im running out of steam now and dont want to make this review any more ramble-y than it already is. So Ill just sum it up, The Signal is gorey as all hell, scary when it needs to be, and funny as shit when it wants to be. David, Dan, and Jacob thank you very much. Now go make another one now please.
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PS: One more random thing to note on the scary part. In one particular moment of the film it caused a woman sitting a couple rows to mutter under her breath Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh no, no, no. Check this film out if you can, its got five more screenings at sundance, I wish I had time to fit in another in my schedule.