The Signal (2008)

David Bruckner [Transmission I: Crazy In Love]
Jacob Gentry [Transmission II: The Jealousy Monster]
Dan Bush [Transmission III: Escape From Terminus]

Anessa Ramsey - Maya Denton
A.J. Bowen - Lewis Denton
Justin Welborn - Ben
Scott Poythress - Clark
Chad McKnight - Jim Parsons
Sahr Nguajah - Rod
Cheri Christian - Anna

Genre - Horror

Running Time - 98 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

THE SIGNAL is composed of three not-entirely-linear sections, called Transmissions, that give us different points of views of the main characters that lead to its conclusion. It's another "man vs. technology" type of film, but THE SIGNAL doesn't preach social commentary and tells a great story both narratively and visually.

In Transmission I: Crazy In Love, we get Maya's (Anessa Ramsey) point of view of the events. We learn Maya is a very unhappily married woman, as she has an affair with Ben (Justin Welborn). Ben tries to convince Maya into leaving her husband and meeting him at the Terminus 13 section of the bus station so they can go away together. Maya is tempted but decides to go home to her husband, Lewis (A.J. Bowen). After noticing some disruptive signal that Lewis watches closely on the television, Maya starts to see Lewis act very strangely around two of his friends. So strangely that Lewis becomes the epitome of anger, taking a baseball bat and bashing one of them in the head, killing him. Maya rushes out of the apartment, going to a neighbor's place and almost getting smuggled to death by her. She's saved by some deranged killer with shears, who's distracted enough not to kill Maya. Maya starts to realize that everyone in the apartment has gone insane and attempting to kill each other, due to weird signals coming from the television, radio, and cell phones. She attempts to leave town with Lewis' surviving friend Rod (Sahr Nguajah), but he's affected by the signal as well, causing their car to crash. Maya flees the scene without Rod, walking towards Terminus Station.

In Transmission II: The Jealousy Monster, we get Lewis' point of view. Lewis goes to Anna's (Cheri Christian) place in searching for Maya, but is confronted by a shocked Anna (who just murdered her crazy husband) and bumbling neighbor Clark (Scott Poytress). Confusion is all over this one, as Lewis believes Anna is Maya, Maya belives Clark is her dead husband, and Lewis believes Clark is Maya's lover, Ben. This is the funniest portion of the film.

In Transmission III: Escape From Terminus, we get Ben's point of view. After escaping Lewis' wrath (Lewis tried to kill him for sleeping with Maya), Ben (under the effects of the signal) along with Clark try to find Maya and escape Lewis, who is hunting after the both of them.

THE SIGNAL is an interesting little feature. It has that anthology vibe like in films such as CREEPSHOW and THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, but it's non-linear structure plays out more like PULP FICTION, where the narrative zips back and forth in time so we see different point of views from the characters in the same scenes. Directed and written by three men, it's surprising how well the narrative and the feel of the film's visual styles merge into a great level of continuity. All three Transmissions compliment each other extremely well, even with their different levels of tone and feel.

The first Transmission is the most horrorcentric of the three. It introduces the love triangle and the signal that sets up the rest of the film. It's also probably the most violent portion of the film, as we watch people start to go crazy and kill people for an unexplained reason (we never do learn what the signal is or why it does what it does - which I happened to like alot). It's very suspenseful and brutal to watch, creating a moody edge-of-your-seat vibe that reminded me of a zombie flick. David Bruckner directed and wrote a very powerful and effective opening segment that made me want to watch the rest of the film.

The second Transmission is the comedy portion of the film. It's more dark comedy than "ha ha" funny. Instead of being terrified by the events, we see them in a more humorous point of view, to the point where we kind of see how silly the whole thing could turn out. I mean, when you see a traumatized wife talking to her dead husband (that she murdered by the way) as if he's still alive and still attempting to keep her promise of a party, you know the film's tone has totally changed. It took a while to adjust to the more comical feel, but when I did, I found the second section to be pretty funny. It was almost like a sitcom, where misunderstandings took precedence and they led to nothing but confusion and chaos. Jacob Gentry loves his kooky characters and situations and he showcases them well. I did feel that this section of the film did feel out of place with the first and third sections being more serious, but I liked it.

The third Transmission by Justin Welborn was pretty much a mash-up of the horror of Transmission 1 and the comedy of Transmission 2. I thought Welborn combined the two styles pretty well, especially during that scene where Clark talks to Rod's decapitated head to get information about Maya's whereabouts. Pretty cool scene there. I also liked the ending as well. It's neither happy or bleak in my opinion, but it gives the viewer enough hope that maybe things will be okay.

The acting was equally great. Anessa Ramsey had a presence about her that I liked. She was very intense and likeable, even though she played an adulteress. We never really learn why she cheats on Lewis but it doesn't really matter. A.J. Bowen was awesome as Lewis. He was a crazy motherfucker but he was still very likeable at the same time. He carried the role like a champ. He was the MVP of THE SIGNAL. Justin Welborn was very good as Ben. I definitely sympathized with him as he was very believable in his struggle to find Maya and stop Lewis from killing him or anyone else. Scott Poythress was funny as Clark. He looked like a goofball and played a great one as well.

proves that the indie scene still knows what great horror is. Part horror, part comedy, part social commentary, THE SIGNAL hits most of the right spots. The pacing was a bit off, especially going straight into a comic feel right after a brutal and intense beginning, but THE SIGNAL is definitely worth your time. If you're tired of watching remakes and crappy sequels that mainstream audiences are forced to get shoved down their throats, THE SIGNAL is for you.

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