Although Signs was not the first film written by M. Night Shyamalan, it was the first Shyamalan thriller I had ever seen. That was when I learned why his early films were praised. He knows how to scare the audience. He does it by the classic method of step-by-step revelation. It is said that the scariest things are those that we can’t see. A movie about an alien invasion, such as Signs, is not as frightening if we see how hideous the alien looks. However, when we think the threat is nearby, feel uncertain about it, and slowly see more of it materialize, then the story becomes suspenseful.
That’s one reason I really liked Signs. I also appreciate how simple the story is. It centers on members of the Hess family, played by Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin. They live on a farm where, one day, mysterious crop circles appear in the nearby fields. This is the first of many points where something is revealed and new questions come to mind. It all leads to expectation for worse things to come.
And it does, indeed, get intensely frightening. There is one scene where M. Night Shyamalan himself appears as a man who flees his home after seeing something incredibly horrible. When the Mel Gibson character investigates, he experiences the same trauma and scrambles to protect his family. I mention this scene because it’s a great example of how I covered by gaping mouth and flinched when I least expected it. Take that as an indication. Signs is a well-executed thriller, and for obvious reasons, I won’t mention what other scary moments you can expect.
Going back to the characters, it’s worth mentioning the great performances by the principal stars. They play characters who are genuinely afraid, and as a result, we can relate to them. It’s nice how the film focuses on individual characters rather than a whole population of people, as many sci-fi movies do. Otherwise, we’d be engrossed more in the plot, which is not bad for action but may be a hindrance for a movie like Signs.
To conclude, I want to mention what others thought of this movie. I watched Signs with a few friends in a crowded theater. Each of the frightening scenes made everyone scream, gasp, or have other reactions stemming from fear. Interestingly, two moments were very intense for me because one of my friends, who sat next to me, hit me with his elbow me as a joke. All of this illustrates how Signs delivers what it promises. If you love science-fiction horror, definitely add Signs to your must-see movie list.
Anthony’s Rating: 9/10