Well it’s the weekend and I’m supposed to be starting in on my Australian Horror flicks. But Netflix hasn’t sent those to me yet. To be fair, I’m also a week behind in my topics and haven’t even gotten to V/H/S yet.
So I guess I’m talking about V/H/S!
V/H/S is that horror anthology, the sequel is out now too, where a group of men break into a house filled with creepy VHS tapes. On each tape is different found footage horror short, each one directed by different people. For this 31 Days of Horror I thought it could be fun to look at the different directors of V/H/S and see what sorts of films they’ve been up to. Of course I’ve written about Ti West’s House of the Devil and The Innkeepers so I’m not revisiting those here although I think Matthew is planning to for his 31 Days. I also missed You’re Next when it was in the theaters so… oops.
Tomorrow I will be watching V/H/S 2 but today I figured I’d start off with 2007’s indie horror flick The Signal. From the guys responsible for the Amateur Night entry in the first V/H/S film, The Signal made a bit of a splash when it was released. It was one of those movies I’ve always meant to see but just sort of never got around to. Also, after meeting the delightful Justin Welborn (Hi Justin!) I figured it was probably time for me to finally get to it.
The Signal, 2007. Dir and Written by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, & Jacob Gentry. Starring Anessa Ramsey, Justin Welborn, AJ Bowen.
The Signal is an indie horror movie that tells the story of the city of Terminus. The night before New Year’s Eve, a mysterious signal begins broadcasting through people’s televisions, cell phones, radios, anything electronic. As people are exposed to the signal, they go mad, often setting off on murderous rampages until the entire city is either insane or dead. In the midst of the chaos, lovers Mya and Ben search to find one another and escape.
It’s an interesting premise that I think we’ve seen a few times now (Stephen King’s Cell comes to mind) of technology compromising sanity. It’s done well here and I think the strong concept combined with the love story of Mya and Ben makes for a fun, compelling movie. It doesn’t work always but it mostly does.
It’s broken into three sections, the first from Mya’s POV, the second from her husband Lewis, and the third from her lover Ben. I don’t hate this structure but I don’t love it either. It sort of felt to me that there either needed to be more distinction between each section or less. As it is the tone just sort of wobbles about and it gets to be distracting at times. For example, the first section is pretty straight forward horror survival, Mya walks into the outbreak of madness that’s reminiscent of something like The Crazies or basically any zombie movie. There’s confusion, denial, coming to grips with the new reality, and through it all the basic struggle to survive. I like this section, it’s tense, Anessa is great as Mya, the gore is well done but appropriate. It moves pretty quickly and before we know it, we’re on to section 2.
Section 2 is weird. It’s starts out with this more comedic, satire kind of tone. Completely over the top. I actually did like this part quite a bit. It’s a change from the beginning but I thought it was really funny, entertaining, and still managed to fit in with the feel of the movie. However, it takes a turn to the more serious and horrific towards the end. The problem is that the tone varies wildly in this one section and can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. I think if it picked one or the other it would have been fine. As it is, it ends up being distracting and off putting.
The third section is more race against the clock, we have to save the girl before it’s too late. Ben rushes after Mya to save her before the signal can get to her. He’s joined by the amiable Clark who seems bizarrely brilliant for an apartment building landlord. Again the tone varies in the section but it’s a little more consistent so much less distracting. One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie is Clark interrogating the decapitated head in the basement. That’s an example where the tone between humor and horror was balanced really well. I dug it.
I wish they had done more to explore the idea of what the Signal really was, what the deal with Terminus was, and just the backstory in general.
I’m honestly kind of torn on the ending. In one way, I like the idea that they choose to focus on this one small story in the midst of the insanity, two people who love each other who are just trying to be together. But in other ways, I wasn’t quite satisfied. It was such a compelling premise, albeit maybe more sci-fi than horror, that I found myself wishing there had been more to it than there was. Like, why not try and stop the signal? Why couldn’t they leave Terminus? Where were they?! Was it a Dark City kind of end reveal? Or a Logan’s Run type dystopian future? Why and how does Clark know so much? Is this common knowledge or is he somehow special? Or is he just crazy too and making everything up? I would have loved to find out more.
Of course, the movie got me super curious about it so it was certainly doing something right.
It’s a fun movie, with some really brilliant bits. And it is pretty impressive what they managed to accomplish for a low budget type horror movie. It’s a pretty big scale for what it is. They made a very small budget go a very long way and that alone is super impressive. It could have definitely been more consistent and I’m not sure the three part structure was the best decision but it was a fun idea and overall I found myself entertained.