The Signal defies my rule that having more than one director on the credits guarantees a suck-ass movie. This one has three – David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry (by their powers combined, they are Pop!Films) – and it fucking rules. Big time.
A signal is sent across cell phones, radios and TVs that makes people go crazy and kill. The problem is determining who’s crazy and who isn’t. Do you kill the person next to you because they’re crazy and, if so, does that make YOU crazy? This is the eternal dilemma faced by all the characters in this wickedly original headfuck of a paranoia paradox.
The story is told from numerous perspectives and I’m struggling to think of another film (except perhaps Cronenberg’s Spider) that presents insanity in such a convincing manner. At times, it plays like full-on Theatre of the Absurd; there are some truly hilarious scenes as people react insanely to horrific situations, in a desperate attempt to retain their ‘normality’. At other times, it’s edge-of-your-seat, claustrophic stuff, possessing a similar feeling of inescapable claustrophobia as Romero at his best. There is poignancy and depth as well, beneath the anarchy.
In fact, the whole movie evokes early Romero and early Cronenberg for me. When people talk about evoking the spirit of 70s horror, it’s usually just an excuse to make something seedy and scuzzy. The Signal, instead, takes the spirit of the really progressive 70s horror I like and makes a smart and stylish movie, full of invention, that’s also extreme and unpleasant when it needs to be. A natural successor to the likes of Shivers, Videodrome and Dawn of the Dead; this is genuinely brilliant stuff.
I don’t want to say too much more, for fear of giving away too many of the (continual) surprises in the screenplay, but just go see this. Its raw brutality is made into a thing of beauty by the intelligence with which it’s handled. There’s genius at work here. As if this wasn’t enough, they even see fit to repeatedly play Matt Skiba songs on the soundtrack. It’s like this film was made to make me happy.
Unquestionably the film of the year and in the top three of the decade thus far for me, too.