English / Movie Review

Signs (2002)

More Than Just ‘Expecting the Unexpected’

If an unanticipated climax, suspense and a supernatural concept are the only reasons you think Signs made it big, then think again. There’s more to the movie than just the ‘expect the un-expected’ outlook.

SignsSet in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Signs is about Graham Mess (Mel Gibson), a recently widowed, recently retired preacher, raising his two small children, Bo (Abigail Breslin) and Morgan (Rory Culkin) along with his younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix). The signs start right away when crop-circles appear in Hess’s cornfield. Before long, the family realises that this is the work of aliens. How Hess and his family learn to reluctantly face something disagreeable and, in the process, grow closer to one another makes up the rest of the movie.

That Manoj Night Shyamalan’s direction is exceptional goes without saying, but it is the flawless screenplay that is most impressive. Unlike his previous movies Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, in which the audience is dubious about the flow of events, Signs leaves no room for ambiguity. If you’ve seen the movie and differ on this point, go watch the movie again. The script is such that the movie gives enough hints and the ‘obvious’ stares at you all the time; you simply fail to notice it.

Subtle strains of ingenious humor, intertwined with the main story line, come as comic relief, one more reason why you should watch this movie. Much of this humour emerges from the two youngsters’ reaction to the mysterious force at work in the cornfield, as well as from their fear. Young Bo (Abigail Breslin) charms audiences with her presence and naïve manner of speaking.

Two more reasons why Signs is a must-see: music by James Newton Howard and cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. The haunting musical score lends an eerie feeling and progresses at a deathly pace, often adding to the excitement of the movie. Unorthodox camera shots by Fujimoto are spellbinding and successfully contribute to the spooky feeling.

Shyamalan has proved once again that the unseen and the unknown can be far more terrifying than the revealed. Signs might not exactly be the usual ‘edge of the seat’ horror flick, nor will it scare the living daylights out of most. Still, it manages to give the viewer the creeps… not only while there but long after after leaving the movie theater.

This review was originally published in The New Indian Express (Chennai)

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