Directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry
Starring Anessa Ramsey, AJ Bowen, Justin Welborn
Review by Jordan
Though flawed in it’s tonal direction and threatening to outstay its welcome with an overlong run time, The Signal, an energetic and cheerfully demented horror film that holds a mirror up to society’s state of hypnosis by way of media bombardment represents exactly why I love horror and believe it the most important and influential genre when tackled with intelligence.
It’s fierce, frenetic and at times stupendously violent, but also packs a strong sense of black humour and nostalgia for the American exploitation explosion of the ’70’s. Told in 3 “Transmissions” from three enthusiastic young directors (David Bruckner would go on to make the highly regarded first segment of 2012’s V/H/S, Amateur Night), The Signal traces the effects of an epidemic of brutality and insanity turning citizens into murderous crazies, brought on by a mysterious signal emitting from all audio/visual devices, on a trio of guilty individuals; the cheating wife Mya (Anessa Ramsey), her lover Ben (Justin Welborn) and disturbed and lethal husband Lewis (AJ Bowen, who has since found himself quite the niche in contemporary horror with fine performances in Ti West’s The House of the Devil and The Sacrament, and Adam Wingard’s A Horrible Way to Die and You’re Next).
Where the first and third segments deal in hair-raising suspense and our willingness to succumb to media influence, tracing Mya as she escapes the confines of her apartment-turned arena of death with help from a rather unlucky psychotic friend and Ben as he attempts to overcome the odds to be reunited with her, the second act stalls the narrative in trying to be too funny where it should’ve been more brisk and punchy. Leaving us with the agitated Lewis in the home of desperate trophy wife as his grip on reality loosens in search of his runaway love, this episode is not without its merits and provides more than a few wry laughs, but sticks around too long and takes interest away from the finale. Still, it’s better to implement imagination and strive with intent to break new ground than to settle into a methodical pattern as most horror films tend to do, and with its interwoven and non-linear structure one thing that The Signal can’t be accused of is being predictable.
Flawed, yes, but so clearly a passion project with a relevant message to push and horrific depictions of death to convey. A tank of weed killer poison with a spray nozzle attached provides moments of undiluted sickness and a shovel and baseball bat serve up more conventional head smashing/decapitating murdering methods. There is style here to boot also, from the frenzied opening to the image of Mya strolling through the chaos sporting a discman playing a mix CD of indie rock to remain unaffected by the mind-altering transmissions, with all these positives and it’s overwhelming intensity and vision making it the fantastic example of horror it is.