Genre Grandeur – Signs (2002)


Here’s a review from Cara of Silver Screen Serenade who chose this month’s Genre.  If you don’t already follow her site, go there and catch the tail end of her spectacular Blogiversary event that has been going on for a few weeks.

It’s not too late to send in your reviews for this months Genre, so get them to me by Friday by sending them to aliens@movierob.net

 

Let’s see what Cara has to say about Signs (2002)….

 

 

signs“See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?” –Graham Hess

 

Number of Times Seen – I would say at least five times, maybe more.

 

Brief Synopsis – “A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields, which suggests something more frightening to come.” (from IMDb)

 

My Take On It – I know I decided on this theme myself, but man was this a tough choice! I picked an alien theme to give a wide range of options, but there are almost too many options! Still, I managed to narrow it down to a handful of my favorites, and from there I chose what happened to strike my fancy at the time. Today’s pick: Signs.

 

It’ a real shame that this is, in my opinion (and in pretty much everyone else’s opinion), the last of M. Night Shyamalan’s good films. Everything since has sounded cool in theory, but in execution…not so much. Part of me is still crossing my fingers that he makes some glorious comeback one day. But I won’t hold my breath.

 

I’ve always thought the performances in this film are stellar. It’s just a shame that the leading man has revealed himself to be such a rude, hateful person in real life. That’s right—Signs was released during an era I like to refer to as the pre-crazy Mel Gibson years. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, I guess. He was always crazy; we just didn’t know about it. Anyway, if you can manage to look past the ugly stigma attached to his name, he really does give a fantastic performance as Graham Hess, a former reverend who has lost his faith following the death of his wife. Gibson has those big, sad puppy eyes that show his emotions so clearly, and he goes through a whole range of feelings in this film, expressing everything perfectly. He even gets a few comedic moments in between all the drama, and those are great, too.

 

This film was my introduction to Joaquin Phoenix, though I know many (if not most) people saw him in Gladiator first. Because of that, I think this will always be my favorite of Phoenix’s roles. As Graham’s younger brother, Merrill, Phoenix is just…perfect. Funny, sincere, sweet, and a little slow-witted, Merrill is undoubtedly the primary comic relief, but he’s more than that, too. He’s a father figure to Graham’s children when Graham wallows in misery. Merrill can be childlike himself, but he isn’t afraid to drop some hard truths on Graham when necessary, and he’s always looking out for his loved ones. As for the rest of the family, Rory Culkin (how many Culkins are there anyway?) does a great job as Graham’s son, Morgan. And then there’s Abigail Breslin. I mean OMG can we talk about how adorable she is in this film? Playing Graham’s daughter, Bo, was Breslin’s very first film role, and she just nails it. You could tell from this film that Breslin was going to do okay for herself, and so far that’s proven to be pretty accurate.

 

When Shyamalan is at his best, there are a lot of clear factors that contribute to that. Getting excellent performances out of his actors is part of it, but I also think Shyamalan is (or maybe I should say “can be”) an excellent writer. He understands natural dialogue, and he can write a damn good monologue. That moment on the couch where Graham and Merrill are talking about fate is just awesome. To tie in with the writing, Shyamalan really can tell a great story, particularly when you realize how every character’s talents or quirks or flaws are all important pieces of the grand finale. Plus, there are so many interesting camera angles in this film—underneath a glass spilling water, focused on a television screen reflecting an alien, down to crack under a pantry door, etc. It’s a feast for the eyes.

 

Admittedly, the film can be a little slow-moving at times, and perhaps some of the themes are somewhat heavy-handed. Oh, and there’s the fact that for an alien film, you see very little of the aliens themselves. I guess you could classify this as a “slow burn” type of film. But a pretty darn good one.

 

Bottom Line – Signs isn’t Shyamalan’s masterpiece (The Sixth Sense still wins that title by a landslide), but it’s a well-crafted, suspenseful sci-fi drama with strong actors, excellent writing, and a moving story. If only we could get Shyamalan back to doing stuff like this again…

 

Rating – Oscar Worthy

 

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Thanks again to Cara for this great review!

36 thoughts on “Genre Grandeur – Signs (2002)

  1. Reblogged this on Silver Screen Serenade and commented:
    MovieRob is at it again with another excellent month of Genre Grandeur! I actually picked the theme this month, which is all about alien movies. If you guys haven’t already joined in, don’t fret–you still can! Type up a little something and send it Rob’s way by Friday, and you can be a part of the fun. Anyway, here’s my review of one of my favorite alien films, Signs!

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  2. i really need to watch this again. it’s been years since i saw it; i agree it’s definitely a slow-burn film. and you’re right that this is probably the last of his good films (although I liked The Happening) Great performances all around. I completely forgot that Abigail Breslin is in it. great review; and thanks for picking the genre.

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    • Thanks, Niall! You definitely should watch it again! It’s a good, that’s for sure. Wow, you liked The Happening?! You might be the first person I’ve talked to who has had something good to say about it! I’ve actually never seen it, but after all I heard about it…well, I didn’t really want to. Lol.

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      • it starts off as a standard m night shyamalan film, with very creepy things going on. It’s hampered by the disastrous casting of mark wahlberg and zooey deschanel, who have no chemistry at all (you also have to believe that marky mark is a science teacher!) … it’s ultimately an interesting film, but not fukly engaging or thrilling. It was laughed out of the cinema because characters are running from the breeze, which does not exactly make for an exciting film

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  3. Nice review Cara! I quite like this film, it’s entertaining but also has a lot of the deeper spirituality stuff that appeals to me. I agree Joaquin is VERY good here, he’s just so versatile, to go from the evil Commodus in Gladiator to this, it couldn’t have been more different!

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  4. Cara – make no mistake – I really like this movie – but one thing has always bothered me – you two let me know if it’s OK to put a spoiler out here.

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  5. This film traumatised me as a child! I think I was about nine when I first watched it…I had an older cousin and she thought it was a good idea to watch it with nine year old me and my seven year old brother. My brother ran out the room crying at the first sight of the alien at the kids birthday party, but I stayed till the end and for two years after, had to leap into bed from a foot or more away just in case an alien hand shot out to grab me haha but it is a great film, really enjoy it 😀 have seen it a few times since my traumatisation and love it! 😀

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    • wow. hope you’re over your traumatic experience. i really need to watch this again. the weakest part for me was shyamalan himself (he is as determnined as tarantino to put himself in his own movies). But I did enjoy the basic premsie and I even liked the twist … although i am not sure if it is a good twist or just a massive piece of contrivance. Lady In The Water is similarly ludicrously contrived.

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    • Oh my goodness!! Natasha, your cousin was not nice!! Hahaha. Well, I’m glad you’ve recovered from that because this is definitely not one you should only watch once–it’s worthy of at least a few non-traumatizing views. 😉

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      • Haha I know! She gave me nightmares once before after showing me an episode of Charmed with a werewolf 😦 had nightmares for days! lol but I still became a horror fanatic 😛 I’ve seen Signs a few times, not recently…the last time was a few years ago, but I still love it 🙂

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  6. whatever Shyamalan’s merits as a writer-director, and certainly there has been a marked decrease in quality in the last 3 or 4 of his films (to put it mildly), he is the producer of a wonderfully scary low-budget horror called Devil which is well worth watching. He didn’t write it (thank God) but it feels like something he could have written around the time he was writing his early work

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    • I actually did see Devil, and I thought it was a vast improvement over a lot of his stuff! Still not up to the quality of Signs or The Sixth Sense, but I liked it well enough!

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  7. very nicely done Miss Cara! Love this movie! In fact, it’s been a minute since I’ve seen it you’ve got me pumped to actually fire it up right after this, methinks! I really think this truly is the departure into ‘shitty Shaymalyan’ as I’ll call it. He builds tension exquisitely in films like this and the stuff before, but everything since it’s like he’s not even trying

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