Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Friday, October 26, 2007


       The end of the world has always been a pretty popular subject matter for the movies. Whether it be by ecological devastation, zombie infestation, or just plain, old-fashioned alien invasion, the apocalypse is a sure-fire formula for providing filmmakers with plenty of tense, plot-driven, life-or-death scenarios. Less often is it the starting point for a character-driven piece; one that revolves around the cares, concerns and foibles of a small group of individuals. But that is, I suppose, part of what makes The Signal so unique, and so compelling.

       The film is structured in the form of a triptych. The first third of the story is told from the perspective of Mya, a young woman who is having an affair with Ben; during a clandestine tryst, they contemplate just picking up and leaving Terminus, the city in which they live. Before they can enact their plans, a bizarre event takes place: every television, radio and phone begins to relay an unintelligible transmission -- one that causes anyone who looks at, or listens to it for any length of time to become completely dissociated from reality; often in a way that is extremely dangerous to those around them. The next third of the film is told from the perspective of Mya’s husband, Lewis; he’s on to the fact that his wife is having an affair, and is desperately searching for her. The last third is told from Ben’s perspective, who attempts to rescue the now-abducted Mya -- and who also has to contend with a very dangerous obstacle in the form of Lewis.

       The Signal has been compared to -- or even mistakenly identified as -- a “zombie” movie; but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Those afflicted by the weird transmission are not mindless, and not necessarily enraged; but they are paranoid, confused -- and become increasingly disconnected from reality. It’s one thing to be in a world of mindless automatons who are out to “eat your brains” -- quite another to be in a world full of rational beings who just have no way of discerning reality from paranoid delusion -- and have no inhibitions to stop them from acting upon their impulses. Ostensibly a “Horror” movie -- and the situation in The Signal is indeed horrific -- nonetheless the film doesn’t always play out like one; the entire second act unfolds as a sit-com (a pretty funny one, I might add). In fact, the film's whole approach to its subject matter has a more studied, analytical feel than what you’d expect from a “fright” flick. Overall, The Signal has more in common with the dystopian novels of J.G. Ballard than it does Night of the Living Dead.

       The Signal’s three-distinct-chapter composition came about because each section was written and directed by a separate person. The film was constructed much like a game of Exquisite Corpse -- each succeeding chapter was handed off to the next writer/director, who was free to develop his portion as he saw fit. The changes in style and mood between each section can be a little jarring, but sudden changes in perspective are kinda’ what the film is all about -- I think it works; at least it did for me. The Signal opens in theaters in February of 2008 -- and really, you can put your mind at ease -- I mean, I took a look at it; and it doesn’t seem to have done m∂ any hram.

Some links:

The Signal’s myspace page.

Magnolia Pictures (the U.S. distributer of the film) website regarding the film.

Next post -- 10/31/07 -- H A L L O W E E N

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