Signs (2002)

In director M. Night Shyamalan’s third directorial outing in the supernatural genre, he tells the story of Father Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), an ex-preacher whose lost his faith in god and quit the church, living in seclusion with his two kids and brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) raising crops and living a generally quiet life. One fate-filled morning, Graham’s son Cole (Rory Culkin) discovers their crops in which they raise have been lowered into the forms of mysterious signs known as crop circles. What ensues is the psychological and emotional horror that will test Graham’s faith and devotion to god and his family. Are the crop circles signs from god, signals from aliens, or do they signal the coming of the apocalypse?

People, I come to you today not as a megalomaniacal amateur movie critic, but as a believer. Every once in a while, a filmmaker will come along that will change the way movies are made, and my brothers and sisters, that time is now! I come to you to preach the gospel of M. Night Shyamalan. He made his debut with “The Sixth Sense” and so far, he’s made mind-boggling hit after the other. This is a true master waiting to put in the books, people. This man defies all commercial properties and sub-beliefs that in order to have a good movie, you need some gimmick, and a whole chock full of special-effects to make it a hit, and throws it out the window. Rather, than trying to appeal to the mass audience, he makes intelligent terrifying movies that scare and evoke thought all at the same time.

Making movies that mix the story-telling formula of Rod Serling (Creator and writer of The Twilight Zone) along with the masterful directing techniques of Alfred Hitchcock he creates an incredible hybrid. He relies on mostly sound and sight in this movie, where moments of complete silence pack enough of a horrific impact than scares. Many of the movie have long moments of complete silence in which the actors must use their facial expressions and reactions to the situations at hand rather than stuffing some computer-generated creature to scare the stuffing out of us. The special – effects in the movie serve as mere devices, being used practically, to help the story and its atmosphere rather than having the story rely on it whole.

Many of the Hollywood directors give in to the pressures of the studios, making cheesy and effect heavy movies. Shyamalan seems to have more of a creative hold on his movies, using what he has. Mel Gibson gives an excellent performance as Graham, the disillusioned holy man who must experience his children’s situation and then, eventually, force himself to believe in what is happening. Gibson is unbelievable, packing a punch in many of the scenes in which there are no dialogue. He is a deep and very likeable character as he slowly descents in to a situation way over his head and must rely on his faith to help him. Joaquin Phoenix is another great character as Merrill, a basic loser who serves as more of a support to Mel’s character providing great emotional leverage.

Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin are also very good as Graham’s kids who first begin to witness the horrific events and must force Phoenix’ and Gibson’s character to believe. M. Night uses all of the elements that bombard and heavily trash a movie and uses it in doses packing even more of a punch. The movie takes a while for anything to truly develop. I must admit I was a bit weary at the beginning and eventually it came, but it does take time for the plot and characters to be set up. People looking for quick scares rapid fire plotlines should look elsewhere, because this takes a while for anything to happen, and even when it does, it’s still pretty much at a snails pace. Shyamalan is 0 for 3, giving us another incredible movie. He’s a modern master and I’ll be waiting on pins and needles for his next one.