THE SIGNAL

Poffy The Cucumber

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Bending new boundaries with classic old tropes.

Two young computer hackers discover a third hacker is sending them enigmatic messages. Chasing down the origin of THE SIGNAL will shatter their reality; will shatter even the concept of what reality is.

THE SIGNAL is a dynamite sleeper; a spellbinding tale of extra-terrestrial communication in this modern age. There had to eventually come an update to the meme that aliens abduct people to anal-probe them. THE SIGNAL is brimming with original ideas, the likes of which used to emanate from the greatest science fiction novelists of the 60s and 70s (like Asimov, Heinlein, Ellison, et al). Director and co-writer William Eubank, and writers Carlyle Eubank and David Frigerio, are in the best of company…

Nic (Aussie Brenton Thwaites, who can’t stop reminding me of Robert Sean Leonard) and pal Jonah (Beau Knapp) encounter a computer “signal,” a communication that intrigues them into running down its origin. On a road trip to deposit Nic’s girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke) in California, the two boys plan a detour to the signal’s origin point, which they triangulated through the power of nerd. Nic’s recent muscular dystrophy affliction in his legs, forcing him to use two crutches to walk, makes him distant toward Haley, and gives them both desertion paranoia, each thinking they are going to leave the other when Haley reaches California, land of sun, surf, Muscle Beach and One Night Stands.

In a fit of BLAIR WITCH-ian cinematography, the signal’s origin turns out to be a dark trailer in the woods. And things get pear-shaped…

Nic wakes alone in a medical facility, his legs wrapped, unable to walk, wheelchaired into a room to be questioned in a most disturbing way by a Hazmat-suited Dr. Damon (Laurence Fishburne). To his annoyance, Damon won’t tell Nic how or why he is there, except to deflect his questions clinically.

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Eerie soundtrack by Nima Fakhara underscores the inspired storytelling, as we discover, piece by piece, like Nic, that he is being used as an experiment; that his legs have been replaced by segmented metal bionics (visualized in gleaming Colossus-like armor-plating), and that he can actually use them… like a… superhero…

One of the best true science fiction movies of the decade, THE SIGNAL is not a superhero movie (at least, not in the sense we know superhero movies), yet we brush up against this phenomenon here that reeks of imminent reality. Might this not be a method by which humans can actually become “super”? IRON MAN is all about a human who augments his flesh and bone with mechanics, turning himself into a being that can challenge a god. And how do we discover the limitations, the potentials of that melding of human flesh and steel without experimentation?

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Even Jonah has been tampered with, and both he and Nic use their newfound “powers” to escape the facility with Haley (who is, as yet, untampered with), finding themselves in a Middle American desert populated by idiots, i.e. Middle America. Lin Shaye and Robert Longstreet make intriguing cameos that add to the overall disorientation of this tale. But there is a chilling truth awaiting them on the other side of the endless desert. There IS no other side…

The physical exigencies of the plot are nothing compared to the manner in which the movie is purveyed. There is a constant nausea of disturbia permeating the air; an uneasiness that lies somewhere in what Dr. Damon has not told Nic. Consider how we unthinkingly pluck animals from their habitats to experiment on them in the most gruesome fashion. And that creeping, hubristic horror is the true beauty of this movie and the shrapnel in the shock of its conclusion.

END

Signal_titleTHE SIGNAL (Jun 2014) PG-13
Director: William Eubank.
Writers: Carlyle Eubank, William Eubank, David Frigerio.
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Jeffrey Grover, Laurence Fishburne, Lin Shaye, Robert Longstreet.
RATINGS-08imdb
Word Count: 1,150      No. 1,093
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