The Signal

The Signal is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Signal (2007) – Rated R

“When the phones, radios and televisions in the city of Terminus begin to broadcast the same strange signal, the transmission breeds jealousy and hate, turning once-sane people into murderous lunatics. A faithless wife seeks the safety of her lover, while her affected husband hunts for her. David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush each write and direct an act of this horror tale that was nominated for a John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award.”

“Anna, I need a couple of things that Ken borrowed, namely my hatchet… and some garbage bags. “

The Signal is a wonderful idea. Take three creative people (David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry) and let them each write, direct, and edit an act of a continuous horror movie. Gentry is also a producer on The Signal. The movie is cleanly divided into three acts plus a prologue.

The prologue is an excerpt of “The Hap Hapgood Story” directed by Jacob Gentry. It is an uncomfortable send-up of exploitation pictures and Hap was one of the winning entries in the 48-hour film festival.

Act one, Crazy in Love, sets up the premise and deals with the initial outbreak. It is very tense and genuinely frightening. There is a really good atmosphere of building paranoia and creeping insanity. Just when you think they can’t ratchet up the tension any more, part two begins.

Part two, The Jealousy Monster, was directed by Jacob Gentry and starts to tell the story from the point of view of those affected by the signal. With the change of director, not only does the direction of the story change but the tone does a complete 180. The second film is hysterical – one of the funniest horror segments I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately the third film, Escape from Terminus by Dan Bush, is left to wrap up the story and while it does bring up some interesting questions such as our identity, it feels very cluttered and doesn’t wrap up the movie very well. The tone of the third segment also feels very uneven.

The acting is just fine from a bunch of unknown young actors. Anessa Ramsey plays our unhappy housewife, Mya. Justin Wellborn is her boyfriend Ben. They really sell their complicated relationship and it is a part of what makes The Signal work so well. A.J. Bowen is Mya’s jealous husband, Lewis and he is quite scary.

Overall the film is a wonderful experiment in terror, leavened with a lot of humor – please be aware however that this film is quite brutal.

People Watch: Directors David Bruckner and Dan Bush both appear as ‘screaming man’ in The Signal. Jacob Gentry apparently does not put in a cameo.