With Signs, M. Night Shyamalan seems to offer more of the same: precocious kids, a father’s spiritual crisis and a lot of hullabaloo about what lies beyond the fourth wall. For fans of Unsolved Mysteries and The Birds, the story may feel overly derivative. Precision-perfect crop circles appear outside the home of Father Graham Hess (Mel Gibson). Shyamalan groovily evokes a burgeoning apocalypse through the voice of a distant crow, a ravenous family pet and a local cop (Cherry Jones, keepin’ it bumpkin) who speaks of an old bitty who spat all over a corner grocer’s goods. The film’s self-conscious humor works for the most part, especially during a screwy scenario that suggests the eagerness of Uncle Sam’s reach. Shyamalan’s use of the long take is every bit as unnerving as the overhead shots and interior pans that call attention to the geometry of all things (landscapes, swing sets, a portrait in Graham’s bedroom). Still, if the film’s opening and closing title cards are any indication, Signs seems to say as much about Father Graham’s return to the cloth as it does about the size of the director’s ego. Shyamalan keeps an impressive lid on subtext before letting it boil over during the film’s second half. Too much attention may be called to notions of luck, miracles and probability (a pompous Shyamalan, via his extended cameo, evokes an all-knowing god) but the comings and goings of the film’s visitors are fascinatingly and purposefully shrouded in mystery. From his comic-book-panel pulpit, Shyamalan speaks of people so disconnected from their inner spirits (their torments, their families) that they seek enlightenment only in times of crisis. What with all the pre-packaged scares and affirmations, Shyamalan apes the Scriptures to good measure, creating a New Age horror flick that’s as earnest as it is eye-rolling.
- M. Night Shyamalan
- M. Night Shyamalan
- Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, M. Night Shyamalan, Patricia Kalember
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