Overview: A group of friends driving across the country decide to track down a hacker. Focus features; Rated PG – 13; 97 min
Love: One thing is clear from the beginning: Director William Eubank is a director who loves the Sci-Fi genre. As is the case in his first film Love (self-produced), The Signal showcases a stylized filming from an ex-cameraman/cinematographer who knows how to tell a story with a camera. Even the shortcomings are stylized (there is a slight overuse of slow motion in the film’s last 30 minutes).
The film was written by Eubank, David Frigerio, and Eubank’s brother Carlyle, all newcomers to the game. In their script, one can feel the connection they have with Sci-Fi. The most satisfying part of the movie is how they stay true to their influences and principles, never playing to the audience. The opening scene creates and unsettling mood immediately; a chilling punch is delivered during the first reveal and a flurry of follow-up punches ensues.
The Fun: This film has a simple story: Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Haley (Olivia Cooke), and Jonah (Beau Knapp) are on a trip across the country when they encounter a signal that leads to an alien encounter. These moments are weighted with anxiety and deliver a very creepy undertone. Like most frightening Sci-Fi, The Signal plays to the notion that intelligent extraterrestrial life would not be good news for humans. The very notion of life from “out there” is one that challenges some of our most deep-seeded psychological and spiritual beliefs. And, by pulling strings on that real anxiety, this film reminds me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Pandorum (Pandorum is a good movie, dammit).
Overall: The Signal is probably not the best science fiction film you will ever see, probably not the best you will see this year (early prediction on Interstellar making our Greats section), but it is an intelligently-crafted suspenseful trip through an informed Sci-Fi narrative. I firmly believe that Eubank will be one of the next great Sci-Fi directors in Hollywood.