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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Signal


Starring: A. J. Bowen, Anessa Ramsey and Justin Welborn
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 18
Available 06 April 2009

The city of Terminus holds a thousand stories, but with the arrival of the signal all of those stories turn to horror. Without explanation televisions, radios and phones all start to emit the same signal. At first nothing happens, but the beginning of the New Year in Terminus will create a madness which will destroy the world...

The Signal (2007 - 1 hr, 43 min, 15 sec) is an indie science fiction horror film created in three parts and directed by three different directors: David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry and produced by Alexander A. Motlagh. The film was nominated for a John Cassavetes Award at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards. Shot on a minuscule budget over two weeks, the writers have taken a relatively stock apocalyptic premise and given it an innovative spin. What gives the film its spin is that The Signal not only alters perception but heightens what you want the most. So, in Lewis’s case, he wants to protect his wife. Just how far would you go to protect the ones you love? Would you be willing to kill? Of course you would, this is a horror film after all.

It’s an interesting concept which works exceedingly well. The basic story sees Mya Denton leaving her lover, Ben, to return to her husband, Lewis, with the lie that she has been out drinking with the girls - he patently does not believe her. When he turns on one of his friends, and kills him with a baseball bat, she flees the apartment only to find the hallways strewn with the dead and dying. The following day she escapes with Rod, but both Ben and Lewis are not far behind.

Having a triumvirate of directors allows the film to show the unfolding plot from the perspective of the three main protagonists Mya, Lewis and Ben. It also allows the three directors to bring their own artistic sensibilities to their individual segments. Part one concentrates on Mya's story and introduces us to her lover, Ben, her husband and his friend Rod. In feel this is a exactly what you would want from the set up as the film wastes no time into getting into the action and setting up the end of the world scenario. The middle section concentrates on Lewis’s hunt for his wife, although there is some let up in the level of violence there is a whole chunk of black humour delightfully added. This section also introduces Anna, a party obsessed woman and Clarke, who is relatively unaffected and seems to have the best idea of what is going on. The third, and last, section of the movie sees the story take a more spiritual path as the disparate threads of the story finally come together.

The main cast do an excellent job of inhabiting their characters. Anessa Ramsey gives us a vulnerable yet capable heroine, Justin Welborn throws in his hero role as a man who must overcome his own demons if he is to save the woman he loves. AJ Bowen has the unenviable task of playing Lewis, who slips in and out of his own psychosis, at times you can see elements of the betrayed husband and feel sorry for his character, but that’s usually just before he brains another civilian.

Whilst the three main characters do a sterling job, my favourite characters were Anna (Cheri Christian) and Clark (Scott Poythress) two suburbanites who try and remain sane in an insane world only to be more insane for the attempt. These two also provide some of the funniest moments in the film.

For a film made on such a tight budget it looks pretty good. Okay, so they didn’t have the money for grandiose special effects, but what they miss in vistas they make up with solid content.

The film is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with either an English 5.1 audio track with the options for French subtitles for both the film and the full length commentary with the directors.

The disc comes with a good set of extras, obviously the commentary being the largest and in in some ways the most interesting inclusion. But on top of that you get Signal Breakdown (4 min, 32 sec) which concentrates on how they got the film off the ground; Inside Terminus (15 min, 03 sec) discusses the actual making of the film and the different approaches each director took to the narrative. The Hap Hapgood Story (10 min, 02 sec) is the actual short film, parts of which form the opening sequence to the film. Transmission Webisodes (12 min, 33 sec) gives us three short films about what was happening in other parts of Terminus during the outbreak of psychosis. The disc finishes off with a couple of deleted scenes (2 min, 12 sec) and two trailers.

When the film opened with the sequence from Hap Hapgood I thought that the movie was going to be awful, so I was glad I stayed with it as the Hap sequence is of pretty poor quality, but then it doesn’t last long. The finished film reaches for so much and for the most part succeeds.

Having three directors wasn’t as disrupting to the flow of the narrative as you would think.  What can I say; it was a revelation what you can do with little money and a lot of skill. This should appeal to fans of indie, science fiction, horror and quirky films.


Charles Packer

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