Star – Laurence Fishburn
Genre – Sci- Fiction
Run Time – 100 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – USA
Awards – 1 Wins & 3 Nominations
Amazon – £5.83 DVD £26.67 Blue Ray
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Now here’s an interesting little Sci-Fi that you may have missed. In fact it’s the type of film you will always miss if you are not keeping an eye out for ones like this in top ten lists online. There is no real highstreet point of reference naymore to help you chose your movies from the various budgets and genres now Blockbusters has closed. Well I dug this one up for you and now you will know all about it. Its always fun when you uncover a little treat like this one that equates to the joy of finding a pound coin or two in the back of the sofa.
Its low budget Sci-Fi from director William Eubanks that doesn’t waste a cent on screen and delivers a twist up there with M Knight Shyamalan with the underrated The Village. A great twist can turn an average movie on its head. The imposing Laurence Fishburn is in the lead here and between the two of them in total control of this intriguing and rather ominous Science Fiction sleeper. As I said, no one really knows about it and films like this anymore.
• Brenton Thwaites as Nic Eastman
• Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Wallace Damon
• Olivia Cooke as Haley Peterson
• Beau Knapp as Jonah Breck
• Lin Shaye as Mirabelle
• Robert Longstreet as James
Super smart M.I.T students Jonah (Beau Knapp) and Nic (Brendan Thwaites) are fiddling around online in their digs when a hacker takes down the prestigious East Coast university servers. The boys are intrigued and fascinated by who could pull off such a hit and try to trace them. The hacker calls himself ‘NOMAD’ and nearly gets the boys expelled when they are blamed by email for the hack as NOMAD takes over their computers and laptops. They decide to trace the hacker in revenge and it doesn’t take long to find them, and along with girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke,), they are soon on a road trip to Nevada where the hack originates from, planning to go to California anyway so on their route.
The location is a ramshackle wooden house in the dusty desert. The two guys go inside and find nothing but dust and woodworm whilst Haley waits in the car as the night creeps in. Nic and Jonah hear Haley scream and run outside, only to see her pulled into the sky before disappearing into a white light themselves. When they come around they are not in a UFO but some sort of medical hospital, drips in their arms and men walking around in biochemical protective suits. Could they have stumbled into an infected test site or some sort of secret military facility? Who knows.
Nic has the number 188.8.131.52 tattooed on his forearm and soon being questioned by likewise suited and booted Dr. Wallace Damon (Laurence Fishburn), the head of the "transition group" in charge of helping Nic to cope with his strange and unknown situation. Damon informs Nic what they encountered near the house was an EBE: an extra biological entity that may or may not have infected them. He discovers that Haley is in a coma and Jonah is unseen in another room and lost the feeling in his arms. Whatever has happened to them they are clearly being held against their will.
The boys are smart and begin to figure out how to escape the facility, not convinced they are infected with anything but covert military set up and they are not leaving Hayley behind. The Doc tries to convince them they will be released when the tests are completed but events take a sinister twists when something is not right with the boys bodies, startlingly so, as they make a break for it into whatever is out there, Nevada or not.
I really enjoyed this and you should ignore the sniffy and negative critic’s ratings. Director William Eubank has created an intriguing and twisty little Sci-Fi movie and I’m here to spread the word. At no point do you know what’s going on here and when you do, Eubank throws up a spinnaker and the film is off in a completely different direction and genre. It’s all about misdirection as you think you have been here before and then suddenly we are somewhere else.
The Signal is clever in its execution of recycled concepts from previous films. I don’t want to tell you those film as it gives away too much but I guarantee you won’t twig this until the final dramatic reveal in the final minute of the film, a bit like when Bruce Willis when he realizes he is a ghost.
It cost just $4 million to make and looks fabulous on it and every cent well spent. There is no fat left on the bone here. But it did just $2.4m back, which is a shocker for what this is. As I said up top, people simply don’t get to know about these above average low budget films as no one wants to promote them, the studios spending their entire marketing budget on the big CGI films. I really miss Blockbusters as it was a visual high street reference point to what is out for us to enjoy in all genres and budget range.
It’s well acted by a relatively unknown cast orbiting around the imposing presence of Laurence Fishburn and you are drawn in early on to its discombobulating narrative and genre flips. It’s a film you simply don’t want to let go of. Fishburn skillfully carries the movie to all those intriguing places it ends up in. The love interest doesn’t slow anything down and giving the lead actor has a disability (multiple sclerosis) its also refreshing and brave filmmaking, that disease championed brilliantly in Breaking Bad. A creepy soundtrack and pithy writing also add to the mystery.
It reminds me a bit of the first time I saw low budget time travel films like Primer, a film you should also seek out if you are fed up with comic book CGI mayhem bunging up the Sci-Fi genre in the multiplexes. In fact Eubanks also did a previous intriguing Sci-Fi called Love (2011) that you should also checkout, containing one of the greatest scenes of all time from the genre. He also did the cinematography on Nick Cage’s fabulous popcorn supernatural Sci-Fi hokum treat. This is a director that loves to bring intrigue and mind stretching reality to the big screen. The Signal is a film you need to see guys if you are prepared to suspend your disbelief a little now and then. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from the sum of its parts but isn’t that the point of Science Fiction films?
Imdb.com – 6.1/10.0 (60,328votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 60% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 54% critic’s approval
Not that many
Jolly japes from cast & Crew
-Behind the Scenes-
On of those ones where no one talking to you and you just see people behind the scenes. I hate that. S if anyone cares.
The Guardian –‘Sadly, this flubs the landing with a banal and credulity-stretching finale that feels like a bad Twilight Zone episode, but the first hour or so is terrific’.
Kim Newman –‘William Eubank continues to work his particular mind-stretching mix of acute character interplay and cosmic conceptual breakthrough’.
Sky Movies –‘While following familiar sci-fi codes, what makes The Signal unique is the way it's transmitted. Because just when you think you've found its wavelength, it switches to another’.
The Horror Show –‘Adequately creepy, flashy, and/or exciting when the story calls for it, but considerably more interesting for its quieter, craftier moments’.
The Mail-‘Part horror, part sci-fi but totally engrossing, William Eubank's The Signal is a small scale production that thrives on some very big ideas’.
Daily Telegraph –‘The more original and clever Eubank is aiming to be, with an ambitious conceit folding in biological experimentation, Area 51-style paranoia and X-Men superpowers, the hokier and more derivative he seems’.
The Sun –‘Up-and-coming British actress Olivia Cooke and Aussie heart-throb Brenton Thwaites look more confused than the audience in this sci-fi drama’.
The Odeon cinema was one of two mainstream cinemas in Norwich for many years. I remember seeing Return Of The Jedi there when I was younger and getting a poster because it was my birthday. It had three screens nut shout it's doors because it couldn't compete with the two state of the art multiplexes that opened in Town. A few months later the building was taken over by a local chain called Hollywood. They offer cheap ticket prices £3.99 for adults, £2.99 for kids/OAP's. Generally they cater for the family's and those who don't like the big loud sound of the multiplexes. Because they only have three screens, the choice of film's is quite limited. Sometimes they won't have film's on opening weekend. This is one of the advantages of a multiplex, I've had the chance to see films that wouldn't have seen a screen in Norwich a few years ago. I have only seen one film at Hollywood and that's Hannibal, I also saw this film at the UCI so a comparison is ideal. The hollywood still has the old style fold up chairs which can be uncomfortable after a few hours. The sound presentation was in Dolby Digital but the theatre is quite large and hollow in dynamic. As a result you don't get the full expereince of the sound. The screen is also quite small. After going to Ster Century and UCI this just seems an inferior option. Still not everyone likes the loud full on cinema experience and prefers a quieter old style time. Personally it's not for me but I respect Hollywood for catering for an audience. However with Ster lowering prices and having better facilities the next few months may be interesting.