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The Signal

As a cautionary tale on the mind-controlling qualities of electronic media, The Signal is a horror gore-fest about a world gone mad because of a mysterious signal that takes over the airwaves.


Mya, Lewis, Ben, Clark, and the rest of the humanity living in Terminus (a city of the future) are going about their lives late on the night before New Year's Eve when a strange signal begins messing up their televisions, cell phones, and radios. At first they are just annoyed, but then the terror begins, as the signal begins to drive people to murderous aggression, with random killings taking over everywhere. Some, like Mya, are not affected by the signal; while others, like her estranged husband Lewis, float in and out of crazed violence. As the story unfolds, told in three segments by three different directors, squirting gore abounds, juxtaposed with surreal moments, fantasy sequences, and seemingly invincible characters that somehow survive grisly, graphic death blows and come back for more. As the 24 hours of New Year's Eve winds down, the carnage slows a bit, but the damage is done, as civilization will never quite be the same again.


The Signal is a low-budget independent film, populated with actors you have never heard of, mostly from the Atlanta area where the film was conceived and created. The best of the bunch is Anessa Ramsey, who plays Mya with a nuanced, compelling style that makes you want her to be on the screen much more than she actually is. Justin Welborn (as Ben, her illicit lover) is also a discovery--a quietly handsome guy who brings a realistic feel to a film that is mostly way over the top. A.J. Bowen is a hulking presence as Lewis, Mya's relentlessly jealous and violent husband who will stop at nothing to find her and keep her by his side, and Scott Poythress as Clark melds a bit of comic lightness into his role as one of the few still-sane inhabitants of Terminus--despite the fact that he has one scene where he has a conversation with a severed head. Overall, the acting in the film is pretty believable, no mean feat for a script that calls for the characters to maintain an almost constant state of fear or aggression.


The Signal is a three-way project, broken into three segments (called "Transmissions") and each directed by a different person: David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry. They are part of the Atlanta-based POP Films (Gentry's cult film Last Goodbye was the company's first effort), and are long-time friends as well. Collaborating together, yet each responsible for their own segment, the three made the film in less than two weeks, for under five million dollars. A 2007 Sundance Film Festival favorite, there is much to like about the movie, despite its obvious low-budget production values. Slightly disjointed, and sometimes not quite following the plot points one of the others has set beforehand. In one scene, there is an extremely gory murder of one of the main characters, whose head is completely bashed to pulp, only to have him miraculously reappear later on with barely a scratch on him. Huh? The three still have a ways to go before they can be compared to horror masters like Wes Craven or George Romero, but The Signal is not a bad beginning and shows promise of things yet to come.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.