The Signal (2007)

Plot Overview

A transmission that comes through televisions, phones and radios causes those with prolonged exposure to go a little crazy; causing hallucinations, paranoia and extreme violence. Told in three parts or ‘transmissions’, we follow a group of characters from shifting perspectives.

Review

I’ve been meaning to watch this film for years, but having caught a glimpse of it once, I assumed it was going to be a really low-budget, lame and generic ‘zombie-like virus’ tale. How wrong I was.

We meet our central character, Mya, as she wakes up in the bed of a man, Ben, with whom she’s been having an affair. Ben begs her to leave her husband and go to Terminal 13 and leave town with him, but she reluctantly goes home to her husband, Lewis. Not long after she arrives, chaos strikes as the ‘signal’ takes hold; Lewis gets increasingly violent, eventually killing one of their guests, residents of the apartment complex begin killing each other in the hallway, and people are killing each other in the streets. Mya takes refuge in another apartment until the next morning when she starts to make her way to Terminal 13.

This segment started off wobbly, I didn’t find Mya or Ben particularly interesting characters and I was concerned it was going to be this big love story of them trying to find each other (which was still there, but was not the major issue). The black humour started trickling in once Lewis started going crazy, though I was still unsure of where it was going. Then segment two began…

At the end of segment one, Mya comes into contact with a member of another apartment complex, Clark. She tells him where she’s going and then leaves. We then shift to Clark’s perspective – a character who I instantly liked – as he visits one of the apartments to find that Anna has killed her husband (who had been ‘taken’ by the signal), yet is still busy preparing for a party she is hosting that night. Lewis arrives shortly after and then it goes a bit nuts.

We really start to see how the signal affects people in this segment as it affects them all differently. None of them seem particularly fazed by dead bodies, but though Lewis is ready to kill everyone, the other’s may take a calmer approach. The humour also really comes through in this segment (apparently known as the ‘funny’ segment), and it was hilarious. Lewis and Clark firmly establish themselves as the strongest and most interesting characters as well as providing a much bigger picture to Mya’s initial story and to the signal itself.

The third segment sees Ben trying to find Mya and making his way to Terminal 13. I was a bit disappointed when the second segment ended, but all segments do fit together well and establish important points for the next segment. Though there are some confusing parts, it fits in well with the paranoia and delusions that the characters are experiencing so that we can get inside their head’s a little. It’s surprisingly intelligent and really knows its characters well (the way that the signal affects each character is related to their personalities, as it kind of amplifies the kind of person they are).

The actors were all great – especially AJ Bowen and Scott Poythress, who were both amazing – with even the side characters really making a mark. The characters of Mya and Ben seem fairly weak in comparison to the others, but I think that’s a downside of playing the ‘straight’ characters when the rest are all going completely mental. And AJ Bowen is seriously hot in this film.

Summary

It completely threw my expectations out the window and surprised me with a really great film. With a really interesting concept, told in a bizarre and every effective way, it is one really great (and strange) experience. Its biggest issue is that segment two is really amazing and makes the other seem a lot weaker. With a great cast, great set of characters and an awesome sense of humour, this film is definitely worth watching.

Rating: 8/10

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