Which brings me to the film I'm about to review. I recall many moons ago watching M. Knight Shamwowadingdong's "The Sixth Sense". I actually enjoyed the twist ending and found it to be downright spooky in parts. However, I wasn't blown away like the thrillers of old like Poltergeist and The Exorcist. However, I gave ole M (which he will be referred to as from now on in this review ) the benefit of the doubt. Now years later and after watching several more of his films, I am determined to call him one of the worst directors ever. There are too many reasons to list about this aspect to list right now. But perhaps the accumulation of my negative feelings will come out in what I find to be one of the most idiotic film endeavors ever, 2002's Signs.
Our tale of crop destroying aliens begins one day in the corn fields of Rev. Graham Hess. Hess is played rather woodenly by Mel “you just need to smile and blooooooow me” Gibson. This was before all the racist rants and recorded screaming matches with his baby’s mama. Anyhow, we get treated to Rev’s morning routine which includes sitting up slowly, picking up a few items in the hallway and brushing his teeth. Out of nowhere he hears a child screaming in the distance. He rushes out and meets up with his brother Merrill who lives in an adjacent farm house. Merrill is played by Joaquin Phoenix before all the lunacy he is known for now. See a trend developing with actors in this movie? Yep, me too. Though I can’t prove the script caused their lunacy, I know for sure my short time with it kind of put me over the edge for a bit.
The Hess guys rush out into their corn crops to find Rev’s children Morgan and Bo running around unsupervised. Remember this aspect because you’ll see a trend developing by the end of the next paragraph. Cue the standard M creepy kid theme in which they seem much smarter than their adult counterparts. Morgan and Bo proceed to show the guys some crop circles left by a mysterious cause. Of course at this point anyone with half a brain watching this can figure out its aliens. However, we have a few hours of pain to fill so the movie moves onward. Officer Paski comes over after receiving a phone call from Rev. They go out to check the fields while Morgan tends to the flaming hot barbeque neglected by Rev. Minutes later Morgan joins up with Bo who notes their dog Houdini is acting odd. Houdini growls at them when they try to give him water.Meanwhile out in the corn stalks, Rev and Paski determine that the crop damage is indeed mysterious. We also get a bit of exposition that Rev is a man who has lost his faith when he tells Paski to stop calling him “father”. This gets interrupted when Rev notes he can’t hear his children. They both run out of the fields to find that Morgan has stabbed Houdini to death. Apparently the dog tried to attack Bo. Remember when I said last paragraph to remember the trend of neglected children? Yep, Rev is undoubtedly the most uninventive father on the planet. Something I was hoping Officer Paski noticed but sadly, it simply slips through her fingers.
That evening, Rev is woken up by Bo who wants a glass of water. Of course this becomes an running theme throughout and will make half assed sense later. While talking to Bo about her deceased mother, Rev notes a dark figure looming on the rooftop. He heads over to get Merrill and the two run around chasing shadows. The next day Officer Paski comes back to the farm to take a statement. During this, the group gets alerted by Bo that the TV is showing the same show on every channel. Turns out, crop circles are appearing all over the world…dun dun da!
The next ten minutes prove to be a bit of screen time killing. We find out that Merrill was once a big baseball star when the family goes to town. That and we get semi-introduced to Ray Reddy (M in a role he filled himself) when he makes eyes with Rev. Anyhow, the group heads back home and Morgan (who was influenced by Paski) starts to pick up some odd reception on Bo’s old baby monitor. The group plays Twister for a bit until they get a clear reception which kinds of sounds like a group of humpback whales mating with bottlenose dolphins.
That evening Rev has another encounter with an unknown thing in the crop. That one sentence wraps up another sequence in the film that gnaws away minutes. See, this is what M does very well. Passing it off as what many may call “suspense” he jerks off camera time nicely due to lack of story. Call him what you want but you have to admit he gets paid millions to do this and shines. Anyhow, the family decides to intake some news which consists mainly of UFO sightings. Rev and Merrill have a philosophical chat which eventually gives way to one of the first flashbacks Rev has about an accident.
We get about 1/10 into the flashback when Rev wakes up. I always found it odd how vivid people’s dreams are in movies like this. Usually I dream of walking naked through a college campus. Anyhow, Merrill has been watching the news all night, all of which has nothing good to report. Rev walks in on his kids who have aluminum foil on their heads to prevent the aliens from reading their brain. Who knew a 99 cent roll of it could prove as the ultimate defense against extraterrestrial attacks? Well actually there’s idiocy to these aliens later in the review, stay tuned.
Rev catches up with Ray Reddy who is in his vehicle and a bit shaken up. He tells Rev how sorry he is about what he has done to his family. He also breaks it to him that he has one of “them” locked in his pantry. Que up what I found to be one of the most hilarious moments in the film. Merrill watches a news report which features actual video footage of one of the aliens at a child’s birthday party. (I guess he wanted a shot at the piñata and some cake) Merrill watches in horror as the alien walks by a la the Patterson Bigfoot film. I don’t know if it is the cheesy aspect of the film or Merrill’s reaction, but it has never failed to make me laugh. I swear if you watch it slowly the alien does kind of a “hey you howsitgoin” kind of point to the camera.
Meanwhile back at Ray’s humble abode Rev fiddles around a bit trying to see the thing in the pantry. Nothing much happens until Rev slices its fingers off. I guess I should stop here to point out the first part of alien stupidity. An alien of immense size and with superior technology can not open a door. This is actually pointed out shortly after by Rev to his family. Sigh…anyhow Rev and company decide to stay put and board up the house. They decide to have a wholesome meal while mankind presumably starts to end.
After a bit of emoting, the family gets ready for universal warfare. Rev and Merrill continue to board up the house for a bit until the ETs arrive. The family jumps from room to room and eventually end up in the basement. A bunch of minor scares happen until Morgan has an asthma attack. Rev rescues him through the Force (or something) and goes into flashback mode again. This time we find out that the victim of the accident is Rev’s wife and Ray is the cause. Well that’s a surprise. Anyhow Rev wakes up and learns from Merrill that the aliens are using poison’s gas to harvest humans. BUT the aliens were warded off by a primitive method of some sort.
Cue up the major plot stupidity. Ready, ok? The family decides to go upstairs and the minute Rev turns his back an alien has Morgan at his will. Figuring that all hell has officially broken loose, Rev figures he should finish the flashbacks. In the flashback he talks to his dying wife who offers up some advice. Rev is to tell Morgan to play games and it’s ok to be silly. She requests that Bo listens to her brother because he’ll take care of her. Rev is to simply “see” and Merrill is to be told to “swing away”. Rev then recalls a small conversation about signs they had earlier in the movie.
Rev notes a baseball bat in the room and indeed tells Merrill to swing away. Merrill goes postal on our alien friend who then proceeds to gas Morgan. The alien drops Morgan and Rev tends to him outside. Merrill continues to beat the snot out of the alien and notes that water is like acid to them. I’ll get back to that in a minute. The alien gets destroyed via the H20 and Morgan is saved due to his asthma preventing the poison to enter his lungs. The movie ends with Rev finding his faith again presumably and everyone happy once again.
Ok…I’ve been up and down plot devices in my almost 10 years of reviewing. I have seen a lot of stupidity and unexplained theories in motion. Out of all the plot idiocies I have seen in the past NONE pale in comparison to the aliens in this film. That’s right, not the “good food defense” in Troll 2. Not even the “space time warp” explanation in The Day Time Ended. Not even the “killer vagina” in Lady Terminator!
Are you honestly going to tell me an alien species with a weakness to water is going to invade a planet that is in fact mostly covered with a deadly substance to them? That would be like us invading a planet whose liquid is boiling acid and a ground that’s made of asbestos. Plus if water is deadly to them a pulsating lawn sprinkler would be like a machine gun and a water park would be the equivalent to a nuclear bomb. Secondly why harvest a being that is mostly water? A sneeze alone would probably be enough to melt these alien idiot’s faces off right?
I also should point out that these aliens are rather big fellows; I’d say at least about 7 feet. In other words they aren’t the tiny anal probing lot you’re used to hearing about. You’d figure they would virtually own anyone who frigs with them right? Perhaps rip a few arms off and smash a few heads along the way. Plus might I add, throughout the film they make it a point to let us know these pricks have invisible spaceships. You figure if you have mastered that, maybe you could invent some kind of laser gun along the way to blast humanity into puddles of goo. Nope, these fine folks have to breathe a nerve gas through their wrist onto their victims first. If they wanted to use nerve gas fine but why bother leaving the ship? Hell, gas all of humanity from the safety and comfort of your rotating orb in the sky. Some call M a genius; I call him a serious hack who probably couldn’t match Ed Wood on his best day. Yes I’m serious about that by the way.
Aside the plot lunacy, the film drags horribly which I’ve already pointed out is supposed to be “suspense”. The film pays tribute (or I’d prefer to use the term “rips off”) to many films that set the mark of greatness such as War of the Worlds for instance and Night of the Living Dead. These films provided the viewer with a constant thrill and sense of danger. All Signs does is drag its feet with pointless dialog and time killing devices to fill a painful amount of time. Essentially nothing much of anything happens until the last ten minutes which at this point is immensely unforgivable.
Perhaps the only shining beacon of light is Phoenix in his role as Merrill. His panicky ways are enough to make him loveable and his reactions are often priceless. Everyone else and I blame this mainly on the script, pretty much puts forth a subpar performance. Rev is a pile of sawdust that has no likeability what so ever. I understand he’s mad with his faith for letting him down. Must it however be drilled in so heavily as a subplot? Also, what’s with the nonsense of his wife having to die to save her family? Couldn’t all that advice be delivered while she’s alive and well? That way we don’t have to follow a whiny introverted prick for a few hours?
I recall after watching this the first time with my wife as if it were yesterday. I walked downstairs only to find myself laughing at this film the more I thought of it. It got to the point where I had tears rolling down my face. I had heard from several people before how thrilling this endeavor was and my mind kept switching back to the stupid plot elements. My wife eventually asked me why I was laughing and I told her. We went back and forth for hours tearing this film to shreds. Then after this I called my brother and had a wonderful conversation about why M generally sucks as a director. Ah good times.
Since Signs, M has gone on to direct other atrocities I have not taken part in. Matter of fact when I hear his name attached to something I avoid it like a pack of nerve gas breathing aliens. I’m glad to see his name being more and more equated with the word “awful” than “genius” perhaps that’s the ultimate “sign” of a horrible director.
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