Saturday, January 25, 2003

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Just finished watching Signs, the most recent effort from Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan. It concerns, as you may know, a recently widowed father of two (Mel Gibson) who lives on a Pennsylvania farm with his younger brother, and how they cope with their grief against the backdrop of what appears to be an alien invasion of Earth.

Shymalan works so hard at creating a feeling of unease and oppressive dread that it often makes his movie somewhat tedious...all the characters go around in a poker-faced daze, as if they were on Lithium. Even the infrequent humorous asides by an unusually restrained Gibson fall flat because of their deadpan delivery. The film is even shot in a dark and murky fashion, and not even in broad daylight is it truly bright. The whole alien invasion angle, in retrospect, is one which I wish he had gone in a different direction with...I think the movie would have been better off without it. There's a lot more suspense in the scene towards the end with an asthmatic child than in the earlier "alien in the pantry" episode. That being said, the film does create and sustain the mood Shyamalan desires, until the last 10 minutes or so which are straight out of a 1950s B-movie...Shyamalan obviously wishes to emulate Hitchcock, even to the point of making an effective cameo appearance, and that's a worthy ambition, but he should remember that the Master also had a sense of humor and a desire to entertain, and that's something Shyamalan lacks.

So like his Sophomore effort Unbreakable, Signs is a for the most part well done and often gripping film which I couldn't help but find fault with and wish it could have been better. I recommend it with reservations, and I think it will be interesting to see what he does next.

Now, if they had ended it with the Five Man Electrical Band singing their song which shares a title with this film, then that would have been something...!