Screen Relish’s Saturday Screamer: THE SIGNAL

Posted on Dec 31 2016 - 7:24am by Hope Madden

We here at Screen Relish love a good horror movie. So much so, we’ve decided every Saturday to bring you a retrospective look back at perhaps some of those genre entries that have been underrated, unfairly forgotten, missed and abandoned or just so damn good that we needed to scream it from the rooftops. Today’s title is…

the-signal-2007

It’s New Year’s Eve in a time when people still use flip phones and portable CD players. A transmission – a hypnotic frequency – broadcasting over TV, cell and landline telephones has driven the good folks of the city of Terminus crazy. Chaos has replaced civility. We have to exterminate with extreme prejudice! Have you got the crazy?

Like the underappreciated 1973 Romero film and it’s equally underappreciated 2010 reboot THE CRAZIES, THE SIGNAL takes the shape of a zombie film without actually using zombies. Instead of undead, we have wackos – just as difficult to control, just as overwhelming. It’s actually a very Cronenberg concept, told with lots of macabre humor.

David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry created a film in three segments, or transmissions. Transmission 1 introduces our lover heroes as well as the chaos. Transmission 2 takes a deeply, darkly funny turn as we pick up on the illogical logic of a houseful of folks believing themselves not to have “the crazy.” Some may be shell-shocked from the carnage. Jim Parsons (Chad McKnight) seems to be just a desperate loser, but who knows?

Others are clearly mad – we know Lewis (AJ Bowen) is. Bowen would go on to build an impressive list of horror credits: YOU’RE NEXT, THE SACRAMENT, THE GUEST, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, and others. Here he is a menace and a hoot, and it’s impossible not to enjoy every scene he’s in.

The movie capitalizes on the audience’s inability to know for certain who’s OK and who’s dangerous. Here’s what we do know, thanks to THE SIGNAL: duct tape is a powerful tool, bug spray is lethal, and crazy people can sure take a beating.

Transmission 3 doesn’t hold up quite as well, but the film combines Cronenberg (VIDEODROME) with Romero (THE CRAZIES) and Danny Boyle (28 DAYS LATER) – heady company, and still the film comes out as winner.

The film was woefully underseen in its release, but it did draw the attention of some impressive fans. IFC nominated the film for the Independent Spirit Award’s John Cassavetes award – most impressive for an underfunded horror film!

Listen weekly to Hope’s horror podcast FRIGHT CLUB. Do it!

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