I needed a break after a tough day at work, and since Beerfest is on Saturday, I decided I should see Signs
today. I liked it, let's say 3/4ths of the time, but...What I really liked, is that Shyamalan proves, along with other recent horror and suspense films like The Blair Witch Project
, The Others
, and The Devil's Backbone
that patience and preserverance pays off, along with expert blocking, framing, music, and sound design. That, and a judicious use of shock effects, is much more effective than any amount of elaborate SFX, gore, or non-stop (and mind-numbing) shocks; the damn thing had me at the edge of my seat for most of the running time, and I even jumped at the "cheapo" (but oh so effective) stingers, especially the dog barking or the alien attack through the coal chute. And I can see comparisons with The Birds
, since the attack upon the isolated farm house is accomplished almost soley through sound effects. But what I was really impressed with was the movie's sense of humor, for the most part, Shyamalan takes his movie somewhat less seriously than his previous efforts, to a great effect. I really liked how the sense of humor developed out of the characterization and the absurdity of the situation, and I especially like the evolution of Joaquin Phoenix's character, from his early bravado (his pep talk to his older, ex-minister brother, about how to scare the shit out of some prowlers was funny, as was his nerd speech), to mild panic, to outright loopy (it's priceless when Gibson returns home to find his children on the couch, along with his former disbelieving brother, wearing those stupid tinfoil hats, or how Phoenix becomes glued to the TV. And again, I really like the scene where Gibson gives confession to the pharmacy clerk, looking distinctly uncomfortable as they discuss whether "douche bag" counts as a curse (Shyamalan even uses his blocking to create a sight gag, when the old man peaks out from behind the taller, Gibson), and then when he goes to the pizza parlor, and admonishes his brother and his children never to be alone with her, it was funny, because you can just picture ministers and such telling that to their kids. Though at times, I couldn't be certain whether Shyamalan was lapsing into some sort of self-parody, given the odd way some of the townspeople act, especially the Army recruiter and the bookstore couple. I just couldn't tell if that was intentional or just bad acting.
Here's the thing, while I could appreciate the film's message about faith and hope, I just didn't like the way it played out. It seemed so contrived, and I know it was supposed to kind of look that way, that a transcendent force was looking out for us, with a grand plan, and that any insignifcant fact could be woven into a larger purpose, but it seemed, so, well arbitrary (as well as uncomfortably deterministic). I mean, I think I would have preferred Gibson regaining his faith as a result of his ordeal, to actually find strength in the faith of a higher power with a plan, rather than proof of a higher power (a key point would have been when they were all eating dinner and he grabs his kids, and then his brother, in a funny, and touching scene). I think I would have found that more satisfying, but perhaps, it is because I am the type of person who sees only coincidences. Oh yeah, that, and while the final showdown with an alien straggler was pretty cool, especially since that was most puppet work as opposed to CGI, the whole water thing was way cheesy.