Directed by William Eubank
Three college students on a road trip across the Southwest experience a detour – the tracking of a computer genius who has already hacked into MIT and exposed security faults. When the trio find themselves drawn to an eerily isolated area, suddenly everything goes dark. When one of the students regains consciousness, he finds himself in a waking nightmare.
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★★★½ review by Thomas McCallum on Letterboxd
Maybe it wasn't executed perfectly, but in this day and age where story comes second to explosions The Signal was a breath of fresh air. There's a lot to love about William Eubank's directorial follow-up to 2011's Love. It may be slightly predictable and it may fall into a few genre-traps but most of that is forgivable because it consistently remains an enjoyable escape from the traditional summer fare.
A bigger budget certainly would have helped, but that's not to say it didn't impress with what it had at it's disposal. Honestly, it didn't really feel like a movie with a small budget but I couldn't help but imagine the possibilities of what could be done when a director like Eubank is given more resources. His cast was solid. It was nice to see Brenton Thwaites in action before The Giver comes out next month. He shows a lot of range here and was mostly only held down by some weak-ish dialogue (nothing egregious).
If you're like me and you're beginning to get the mid-summer "sick of explosions" syndrome then it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to check The Signal out. It's far from perfect but it's wonderfully original. Hopefully there's more like this coming down the pike.
★★★½ review by Deckard on Letterboxd
I remember seeing the trailer for this film with Godzilla and being really interested in it. It looked genuinely interesting. Now that I finally got the chance to see this, William Eubank's The Signal plays out like a full length Twilight Zone episode. It's how I felt after watching it, and I've noticed others have too. It's certainly something different to come along this summer, but it's quite good and offers a change of pace compared to blockbusters and sequels.
The Signal opens up with three young adults, Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Hayley (Olivia Cooke), and Jonah (Beay Knapp) are traveling to California to drop off Hayley. Along the way, they come into contact with NOMAD, a hacker that nearly got Nic and Jonah expelled from MIT begins to taunt them with mysterious emails and locates them. Nic and Jonah grab his IP Address and track him down to Goodsprings, Nevada, and set out to confront him. They locate him in the middle of the Nevada desert in an abandoned house. Nic blacks out and finds himself in a mysterious underground research facility being question by Dr. William Damon (Laurence Fishburne).
There's several shifts in the film in terms of tone and mood. In the beginning it's almost like some sort of horror film, when they go to visit NOMAD's abandoned house, and the scene is even shot like in a found footage matter and gives off a Blair Witch Project vibe. In the middle it somewhat continues that horror film nature, before turning into somewhat conventional science fiction with the ending going into an action film of the sorts. Though throughout the film there's an unsettling atmosphere, that really goes well with the ominous and sometimes vague nature of the film.
The acting is quite good, as Brenton Thwaites is a good actor and solid as the leading man, and Laurence Fishburne turns in a veteran performance that is just as good. There really isn't a lot of depth to some of these characters, we don't really know much about them other than minor basic stuff that the film told us or let us find out. We get glimpses via flashbacks into the lives of Nic and Hayley along with their relationship, but it really doesn't do much to add a layer of depth so to speak. I suppose you can say that we should be paying attention to these characters NOW, in their current situation, then BEFORE, but it's still a minor gripe of mine. Though they grow a bit strong towards the end, it's not nearly enough, though I am not saying that it's easy to not care for them.
In terms of visual style, The Style isn't a breakthrough in that sense, though on a low budget I was really impressed with how the film looked. It was really kept to a low and wasn't really completely eye catching, but some of the shots in the film and the sets, particularly that of the research facility are just all around great. This is a film that could have been stretched to nearly two hours, but clocking in at 90 minutes or so, got to tell the story, thanks to great pacing and wonderful film editing. Towards the end of the film, there's some eye catching stuff, mainly in the effects department and CGI and some (unnecessary) slow motion, but it's a rather nice looking little science fiction film.
The ending or rather final act of the film can be somewhat predictable and the film's final moments really are something. It's a love it or hate it thing, which I'm torn on. I think the ending, hell the final act could've benefited from some better writing and better execution. Had that of happen, there's no telling how much more it would have lifted this film up, as it already had been. It was engaging throughout though, that's a given. It had my interest from start to finish.
The Signal really is an interesting science fiction film to watch. Aside from some issues, it's still very good.
★★★½ review by John (Magic Rat Movies) on Letterboxd
The closing film at this year's London Frightfest weekender, The Signal, far from a conventional horror film, is more akin to an X-Files episode conceived with hypnagogic dream logic. The basic premise is intriguing, a trio of student computer nerds pinpoint a mysterious signal from a malicious hacker to a remote desert location and set off on a road trip to investigate. Arriving in the dead of night they find an eerie deserted shack with no signs of life or hospitality.......and then things take a turn for the decidedly strange and increasingly surreal.
The Signal cleverly cultivates an air of the unexpected and unknowing, drip-feeding moments of abnormality and conspiracy theory weirdness within a strange, sterile, all is not what it initially appears environment. To reveal much more would be too close to spoiler territory, but rest assured, it's a film which will keep you guessing as it gradually unravels. It's also one of the year's best looking films, remarkably so given its low budget, and is frequently visually stunning, particularly in its latter stages as its science-fiction elements take precedence, building towards a chilling climactic reveal and one of 2014's most jaw-dropping final shots.
★★★½ review by Pat Gambardella on Letterboxd
You can argue about the quality of the story but the visuals and the score were outstanding.
★★★★ review by Waldo on Letterboxd
Impressive directing job by Eubank. Really solid sci-fi movie starts like one of those everything doesn't make sense but it does in a weird way movie, plenty of weird moments and then goes into very slick science fiction atmospheric action. The young cast is committed and very good. The most sci-fi moment was seeing the young man trying to make a call on a public pay phone and starts banging on it. Silly rabbit! It was only 10 cents through the slot, wait for the click and dial! My low-fi was his sci-fi kind of moment.
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