SIGNS. (2002) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN. STARRING MEL GIBSON, JOAQUIN PHOENIX, RORY CULKIN, ABIGAIL BRESLIN, CHERRY JONES, PATRICIA KALEMBER AND M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I saw this film first with a friend in an almost empty cinema back in 2002 and it was a terrific, spine-tingling experience. We clung to each other whenever the aliens were on-screen or just approaching. We giggled out loud at all the genuinely funny lines and we swooned together over the handsome manliness of Joaquin Phoenix. Oh, happy days…! I’ve nothing but good memories of this film so be warned, I won’t be saying anything bad about it in my review. Let the love-in commence…
Mel Gibson, whom I don’t actually fancy, strangely enough, even though half the female population of the world seems to, plays Graham Hess. He’s an ex-priest who stopped believing in God when his wife Colleen was killed in a car accident.
He lives in a fantastic old farmhouse surrounded by acres and acres of creepy cornfields. Just why are cornfields so gosh-darned spooky, anyway? I guess it’s because there could be literally anything hiding in their densely leafy depths. And, in SIGNS, there literally is…
Graham shares his home with his children Morgan and Bo and his younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), a disillusioned ex-baseball player who now works in a gas station. Seems like neither of the Hess brothers is doing the job he wants to be doing, then…
Some mighty strange s**t is going down in them thar cornfields. The Hess brothers wake up one morning to find that someone- or something- has carved enormous and perfectly symmetrical crop circles into their fields. This is never a good sign, if you’ll excuse the obvious pun.
They turn on the television to find that the same thing has been happening all over the world, in addition to crazy lights in the sky and bird-squashing forcefields and God knows what else.
It doesn’t take people too long to figure out what’s going on. Extra-terrestrials are coming, and they ain’t of the cute little E.T. Variety, either. They’re hostile. They want to ‘harvest’ the Earth and everyone on it.
The Hess family barricade themselves into their basement and await the arrival of the aliens, for whom the crop circles serve both as a means of navigation and also as a sort of preface to an invasion.
Father Mel Gibson and his flock of three wait it out in the creepy dark cellar during their long dark night of the soul, but who will be left standing when the morning comes…? Watch the film and see…
There are plenty of great scary scenes to watch out for. Father Mel Gibson in the cornfields at night while an alien ‘stalks’ him under cover of darkness. (‘Stalks…?’ See what I did there…?) Mel Gibson chopping off the fingers of the alien trapped in M. Night Shyamalan’s pantry. That’s right, the writer/director plays a small role in the film as the man who accidentally ran over Mel Gibson’s missus while asleep at the wheel. Not a great move, lol.
Then there’s the unexpected alien footage in the birthday party video-taping. There’s the horrible alien hand snaking under the front door while the Hess family hurry down to the basement. There’s the reflection of the alien in the television after he’s snatched up little asthmatic Morgan Hess. There’s the way that television coverage everywhere suddenly ceases and Father Mel Gibson, knowing that the alien invasion has begun, says ominously: ‘It’s happening…’
That part always unnerves me. It’s the knowledge that the end of the world may just be coming and no-one, not your town council or local politicians, not your government, no-one, is coming to your aid because no-one can. There is no-one to come. (Like in the movie NOSFERATU, when half the town is dead with the plague and the town council disbands, with the immortal words: ‘Run home! Bolt your doors and windows!’ And that’s the last we hear from them…) That’s the kind of thing that could happen and it scares me. Does it scare you…?
There’s a good bit of humour in the film too and, ultimately, a nice warm fuzzy feeling when we see that the family that battles extra-terrestrials together stays together. ‘Swing away, Merrill, swing away…!’
One thing that the film makes me wonder, though, is who chose the surname Hess for Mel Gibson’s character and family? Mel Gibson has been accused of anti-Semitism in the past in quite a big way (check on the Internet before you start accusing me of blasphemy!), and Hess is the surname of one of the top-ranking Nazis of all time. (Rudolf Hess, one of Hitler’s biggest toadies and the numbskull who was captured by the Allies when he flew to Scotland in 1941 supposedly to broker a peace deal between Germany and said Allies.) I’m just saying, y’all.
The character of the lady cop is a really good, solid one. She’s empathetic and compassionate but she gets shit done. The scene where she prepares Father Mel Gibson for his last ever conversation with his beloved wife is both moving and immensely powerful.
This is a highly enjoyable and entertaining film (although the ending was a tiny bit of an anti-climax). I know that I’m utterly biased because of the happy memories I have of watching this film in the cinema back in 2002, after having a lovely lunch in one of my favourite restaurants with one of my favourite people, but whatever, this is still a great scary film and you should definitely watch it. Don’t forget to wear your tinfoil hat when you watch it, though, because if you don’t they can read your mind, and you don’t want that. Do you…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.