HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Signal
HTS Overall Score:72
I remember seeing the trailer for “The Signal” back during summer and thinking that I’d check it out when I got around to it. Unfortunately the summer was packed with so many movies that I wanted to see that my wallet just wouldn’t allow me to go see it in the theaters. The trailer seemed like a generic Sci-fi film, but it still had a strangely alluring pull to the visuals, so when I saw the Blu-ray was coming out I had to give it a spin on the ole home theater. After viewing the movie I’m actually not sure whether I like it or I didn’t as the plot kept you in the dark the entire time, and the ending twist rang a bit hollow. Still, it was uniquely shot and had enough clues running throughout the movie, that if you really know where to start looking, you can start to unravel the mystery a bit earlier than the last 15 minutes of the movie.
Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Jonah (Beau Knapp) and Haley (Olivia Cooke) are all MIT students, or rather TWO of them are MIT students, while Haley is transferring to Caltech for the upcoming semester. Embarking on a road trip to California the thee three friends are going to bid farewell to Haley for a year, only to be sidetracked by a mysterious hacker who exploited MIT’s security flaws the previous year. Curiosity wins out and, against Haley’s better judgment, the trio track down the source of the hacker’s transmissions to the remote outskirts of Nevada. There, amidst a hail of almost found footage style shootings, unexplained occurrences happen, causing a sort of “reboot” of the setting and circumstances, with Nic waking up in a quarantined facility, under the supervision of men in Hazmat suits and medical scrutiny.
Things go from bad to worse when Nic finds out he can’t walk and Haley is in a coma with no sign of Jonah. The head “warden” for the facility, a cold as ice man by the name of Damon (Lawrence Fishbourne), pokes, prods and needles Nic, claiming that he and his two comrades have encountered an Alien being and that they aren’t safe “out there”. The viewer is kept in the dark as much as Nic is, and we have to stumble along with him, waiting for him to find out something, anything, so that we can understand what’s going on as well. As I mentioned earlier, the clues are there, and some of them are obvious, others not so much. “The Signal” has a way of double backing on itself many times, to where you THINK you know what’s going on, but then an action is performed by Damon or one of his minions that make you sit back and go “ok, maybe that’s NOT the direction they’re going with”.
I’m honestly still processing whether I really enjoyed the movie, or was disappointed with it. As we’re kept in the dark the majority of the movie, we feel the confusion and uncertainty that Nic feels, wondering what in blazes is going on, but at the same time the constant nagging question of “what is going on?” is one of the major pulls this movie has going for it. It’s shot fantastically, with a sort of “District 13” grungy texture to the viewing experience, mixed in with a euphoric sensation of being under a bright light the entire way, similar to a medical hospital. The only problem is that it’s really a case of dumb sci-fi, dressed up with anticipation and mystery to make it seem like “smart” sci-fi, as the twist may not have been seen a mile away, but is fairly derivative and been done a million times in the past. So much so, that the ending twist just isn’t very impactful. I honestly didn’t see it coming, but it lacked the emotional shock or weight that it could have had if there had been a bit more exposition on just what was going on in the complex. Visually, the movie is stunning, and the director did a very solid job at keeping the viewer wondering what was going to happen next, but that was the movies downfall too. There was sooooooooooo much mystery and confusion going on that the viewer ends up being emotionally distanced from the characters at the end of the film.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=26889[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer is certainly something that will keep your eyes interested, as it was shot and directed by the Eubanks brothers, who worked for Panasonic’s visual department in the past. The movie starts out with a fairly dingy and earthy look to it, but when the big shocker happens and Nic wakes up in the hospital it changes to a clinical white and green color grading. The contrasts are pushed a bit high and there is some stylistically intentional blooming going on, like you’re being studied under a bright light. The colors are a bit desaturated and mildly muted, but not annoyingly so. Detail is usually very high, showing off all the dirt flecks and blood over Nic and Jonah’s face and the little details on Damon’s hazmat helmet. Blacks are pretty impressive, but there were times that they appeared a bit washed out in some scenes, a bit more grey to them than I would have liked and the blooming caused a little bit of crush. Still, the picture is usually excellent and at low end a good image, and there’s no digital artifacting or compression issues that I could see.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=26897[/img]I was MILDLY disappointed in the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track, not because it was some poor audio experience, but because the trailer was this incredibly active experience when the movie tends to be a bit more subdued in nature. “The Signal” is surprisingly a very dialogue driven movie, with only mild use of the surrounds overall. During the few action sequences you can hear them, but the majority of time is spent in the front three speakers, which are replicated amazingly well. Dialogue is clean and locked up in the center channel with some excellent panning and directional queues that keep those three channels quite active. LFE support is actually VERY mild and subdued for the for the majority of the time, but will leap out and surprise you when least expected with HUGE wallops of deep LFE, then slide back under the rock from whence it came from, only to leap out again and side swipe you the next time. Had there been a bit more surround usage, I would have given it a higher score, for the trap door variant of LFE they used was incredibly effective, as it sucked all the weight from the movie until those little sequences where the surprise was just as effective as the actual bass itself.
• Behind "The Signal"
• Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes
• Feature Commentary with Co-Writer/Director William Eubank and Co-Writers/Consulting Producers Carlyle Eubank and David Frigerio
The Best way to enjoy this movie is to actually go in with as little information as possible, which is why I was a little vague in the description portion of this review. The more you know about what goes on, plot wise, the less impact it will have on you and the worse the experience. It’s very uniquely shot, and has a rather interesting soundstage as well, mixed along with the strange story creates a bizarre and …I hate to say it again… unique viewing experience. I can’t say if it will resonate with you, or whether you will adore it, as I’m still processing what I saw days later. Certainly something I would recommend for a rental at least.
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp
Directed By: William Eubank
Written By: Carlyle Eubank, William Eubank
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DD 2.0
Runtime: 98 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Buy The Signal Blu-ray on Amazon
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