Signs

"Excellent"

Signs Review


Crop circles: real or hoax? M. Night Shyamalan (of the masterful The Sixth Sense and the iffy Unbreakable) stabs at answering that question in the quite good Signs, inspired by patterns found in the cornfields of Pennsylvania. (And yes, it turns out they really do grow a lot of corn up there.)

While you might be expecting a cool-headed mystery about the origins of crop circles, Signs is actually a bizarre mix of V, Independence Day, and Panic Room. Even stranger, it's actually watchable, though at times I was ready to slap Mel Gibson for his stilted performance, which frequently drags down the movie as he pontificates.

The story unfolds on a corn farm where Gibson's Graham Hess (a former minister who has left the church in the wake of his wife's death) raises his two kids with the help of his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix). If you're ready to believe that Phoenix (27) is a brother of Gibson (46), you've got the ability to suspend disbelief for what happens next. Eventually crop circles appear, and the Hess's dismiss them as the work of local pranksters, but soon enough the evidence becomes overwhelming: Aliens are coming. When lights appear in the sky over hundreds of worldwide cities, the Hess family boards up the farmhouse and hides in the cellar, fending off the invasion.

After one of the worst examples of opening credits I've ever seen and a lengthy and misleading exposition, I was ready to give up on Signs altogether. Would this be another "why must we fear outsiders?" piece of paranoia, the kind of movie that went out of style during the Red Scare? If aliens are clueless enough to have to draw giant markers all over the world as "directions" for their spaceships, their "superior intellect" becomes circumspect. (And indeed, the more I think about it, the more preposterous the plot becomes.) But Shyamalan soon wisely dumps his crop circle fetish for real thrills and horror when the creepy aliens start showing up in person.

In some of the most inventive and spine-tingling scenes I've ever seen in a sci-fi film, we watch on TV as a home video camera catches a blurry glimpse of an alien at a child's birthday party. When Gibson faces down one of the beasts through a locked pantry door, my skin absolutely crawled. Even if it did look like a skinny guy in green Spandex, I still get the chills just thinking about it.

Masterful use of suspense isn't all the movie has going for it. Phoenix positively owns this movie, acting circles (no pun intended) around his bigger-name co-star and standing out as fundamentally the only character to whom the audience can relate. Eat the kids, I say, as long as Joaquin makes it out alive.

As for the question as to whether Shyamalan has injected his now-trademark surprise ending, the answer is "not really." There is a moment of minor revelation, but it's tangential to the story. In other words, Mel Gibson is not a ghost.

Signs is quite unexpected, not that it's particularly inventive in story (it really is Panic Room on a farm, with aliens), dialogue ("That's how these things were done in the past..."), or character (a kid's asthma creates a crisis when his inhaler is lost... sound familiar?). But it does have that rare quality of being able to creep the living hell out of you, filling a theater of jaded movie fans with screams of terror, all hoping that tonight -- please -- don't let the aliens come after ME.

The Signs DVD features about five minutes of deleted scenes (no more spooky alien critters, alas), a lengthy making-of documentary with commentaries, and another stellar film from Night's youth -- wherein a robot wearing a Halloween mask slowly chases Night through his living room. Yipes!

Daddy needs a shave.



Signs

Facts and Figures

Run time: 106 mins

In Theaters: Friday 2nd August 2002

Box Office USA: $227.9M

Box Office Worldwide: $408.2M

Budget: $72M

Distributed by: Buena Vista Distribution Compa

Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures, Blinding Edge Pictures, The Kennedy/Marshall Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Fresh: 167 Rotten: 59

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Rev. Graham Hess, as Merrill Hess, as Morgan Hess, as Bo Hess, as Officer Paski, as Ray Reddy, as Colleen Hess, Ted Sutton as SFC Cunningham, as Tracey Abernathy, die Apothekerin, Marion McCorry as Mrs. Nathan, as Lionel Prichard, Kevin Pires as Brasilianischer Geburtstags Junge, as Professor der an Columbia Universität, Rhonda Overby as Sarah Hughes, as Mr. Nathan

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.