Signs

Day, Nicole & myself ventured out to see Signs yesterday.

M. Night Shyamalan does suspense like no one I can think of since A. Hitchcock. Each of his three films are masterfully suspenseful, in different ways. The Sixth Sense we spent the film waiting for revelations, each clue building on the mystery until the answer is revealed. Unbreakable was all about the ties that bind. The suspense was build in exploring the limits of those ties. Signs was in many ways, the most straightforward of the three – the suspense was built off classic terror themes – what will happen next?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Signs is that it felt like a play. Virtually everything of importance happened within the house – you could easily remove everything else from vision and still maintain the crux of the film. The largness of the events were all presented through the eyes of the microcosm of this family’s experiences. Indeed, even the dialogue felt in many respects play-like: far more expository than most film dialogue (On film, don’t tell me your a fast runner in excellent shape, show me).

I was on the edge of my seat for virtually the entire film. I had knee cramps because I’d been all tense the whole time – the score, all dissonant and eerie (I know no technical music terms), was integral to this, although the poignant and specific uses of silence in combination really set the unsettling tone of the film. It was decently acted, no element particularly demanding, I don’t think. Tak Fujimoto’s camera work, as in the other Shyamalan films, was beautiful – smooth, understated, unobtrusive – mostly medium-depth shots (which adds to the sense of the film being a play) that simply sets the frame for the actors to work within. Those few close-ups that were used (mostly on Mel Gibson’s face) were perhaps the weak point of the film – Mel Gibson’s tortured/sad/angry look seems to all be the same – a kind of sad-puppy-dog look that doesn’t quite convey the range of emotions demanded in the script.

As the story unfolds, all was good and enjoyable, until (this seems to be a trend of late) the ending. In fact, I was getting all ready to leave and commend the film makers on leaving such an unsettling (and satisfyingly unsatisfactory) ending when suddenly there’s a little stock horror/action sequence muddled up with some personal anguish and internal strife. But the action didn’t quite fit as metaphor for the internal struggle and it came across as somewhat limp and forced. Taken at face value, it’s all good fun for the ending of a horror/action flick. Taken with reference to a stylized psycho-drama and well, it’s not so good.