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Overall Rating: 4/5
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Tagline: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The Film: Is this film scary? Let me put it this way. When I saw it in a theater last summer, I sat next to a stranger — a grown man, probably in his late 20s or early 30s — who was on a date. At one point in the movie, he literally jumped out of his seat. (I always thought that was just a metaphor.) At another point near the end of the movie, he screamed out loud like a little girl. Chances are pretty good his date wasn’t impressed.
Mel Gibson stars as a former priest living on a farm in Pennsylvania with his brother and two children. (We find out what happened to his wife through some exposition and some perfectly placed flashbacks.) Things are starting to get a little strange down on the farm — crop circles are appearing, the animals are getting mean, and things are rustling in the corn. Could it be… nah, I’m not giving anything away. You’ve got to see this one for yourself.
The “concept” (and every movie by M. Night Shyamalan has a “concept”) in Signs is that there are two types of people in the world: Those who believe that there are coincidences, and those who believe there are no coincidences. Just about every action in this movie — even the ones that took place in the fictive universe before the movie started — has an unforeseen consequence and, believe it or not, a meaning. That forces you to pay attention to every detail during the film in order to get the most from the climactic payoff, but you won’t be disappointed by the effort.
The film is funny in the right parts, scary in the right parts, touching in the right parts, and easily one of the best films to be released in 2002.
Movie Rating: 4/5
DVD: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French 2.0 Dolby Digital sound.
Extras include deleted scenes, M. Night Shyamalan’s first alien movie (made when he was 12), an extensive six-part documentary about the film, storyboards, and a THX optimizer for your sound and video system.
Please use the THX optimizer before watching the film. This film is hard on a home theater system, since much of the suspense relies on subtle movement on a dark screen and the brilliant score. Frankly, my X-Box, which is my current DVD player, wasn’t up to the task — but the optimizer helped me calibrate my television for the best possible images. The better your system, the better the image will be.
I’m going to give the DVD a 2/5 rating, in part because you have to do some work to make the picture look good (and even then, on low-end systems, it’s only “good”) and because there’s no director’s commentary. Yes, we have the documentary, but would it hurt Shyamalan to try a running commentary on just one of his films?
DVD Rating: 2/5
Five Degrees of Separation:
Contact — Are we alone?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind — We are not alone.
Alien Nation — Not only are we not alone, they’ve moved in next door.
War of the Worlds — And they’re lousy neighbors.
Independence Day — But we kicked their asses.