Director M Night Shymalan was a big deal in the year 2002. With his previous box office successes “The Sixth Sense” & “Unbreakable” many fans were interested in his new spooky alien story “Signs”.
One of the biggest surprises of this film before even going into the cinema was the fact that M Night managed to secure Mel Gibson for the lead role. Mel Gibson, a highly respected actor best known for his drama and action films, decided to try out a new genre. After all, the success of M. Night’s previous smash hits, why not.
The film opens up with old-style movie credits- only actors names appearing on the screen along with the classic (and yet!) suspenseful music (it reminded me of something Director Alfred Hitchcock would have done).
Rev. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) lives in an old farmhouse with his two younger children and his brother. Judging by the basic filming after credits, we are given hints that Rev. Graham has a family, is previously married and also used to be a Priest. Waking up in his bed, looking sad, alone and completely drained from life, Graham begins to brush his teeth until he hears a loud scream from afar. This scream also wakes up his brother and two begin to seek the curious scream.
The two begin to run through crops & discover the two children alone in the cornfield. Together the family make a shocking discovery… Many of the family crops have been crushed. The camera then slowly pans out and we get to see a whole lot more to the field than what our key characters can see. The crops have been altered to display some very large, strange & unusual …… “signs” and symbols.
Who did this? What the hell does it mean? Was this done by man, or something else???
Signs for me feels like two films in one. On one side we have our leads characters dealing with personal family matters (and past hurts) and on the flip side, we have a spooky alien story in which the family raise many questions and share curiosity.
As the viewers, we are given very little from the start (this is brilliant!)- the film displays such a mystery within a matter of minutes that will have you raising many questions throughout the film.
The film is tricky to review because I refuse to spoil the goods. I will say that Mel Gibson once again gives an outstanding performance and the chemistry with the director M Night is evident. The other major strength is the film’s music score which was composed by James Newton Howard. I promise you- the music score alone is enough to keep you at the edge of your cinema seat.
The only negativity from myself and fellow critics is the film’s special effects. The special effects here are not anything to love but when you think about the good old classic scary movies, the effects are never the heart to a great film. Alfred Hitchcock was well known for clever filming and suspenseful key moments which I feel is almost match with this type of film. This is not just an alien story with blood and guts. It has heart and contains suspense.
Signs is a film that I highly recommend you see (perhaps at night… On blu-ray… with a good surround system)
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Review Written by Peter Walkden