The Signal

2007, Movie, NR, 101 mins

Review

SIGNAL, THE
starstarstarstar
Atlanta-based writer-directors David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush's low-budget horror unfolds in three overlapping parts that chronicle the escalating chaos produced by rogue electronic signal that scrambles the brains of virtually everyone who hears it.

Transmission I: Crazy in Love (Bruckner): It's New Year's Eve in Terminus City, and Rob (Justin Welborn) and his married girlfriend, Mya (Anessa Ramsey), are awakened from post-coital slumber by the sound of the TV abruptly turning itself on: A flash of slasher-movie nastiness is replaced by a pulsing psychedelic blob and an ominous whine. Mya has to hurry home, Ben asks her to stay: They could go to the train station in Terminal 13 and leave for a new life. But she demurs: her jealous husband, Lewis (A.J. Bowen), is waiting and their cell phones are out, transmitting the same eerie signal. The trip home is an exercise in mounting anxiety: There's a nervous vibe on the streets, people lurking ominously or pleading for help. The halls of Mya's apartment building are alive with neighbors screaming and fighting, while Lewis and a couple of friends are bickering ominously in the apartment: They were supposed to watch a baseball game, but all they can get is the signal.

Transmission II: The Jealousy Monster (Gentry), takes a darkly comic tone: Insufferably cute couple Anna and Ken (Cheri Christian, Christopher Thomas) were supposed to be hosting a party, but when guest Clark (Scott Poythress) arrives, Ken is dead and Anna is in a state of barely suppressed hysteria. As guests -- invited and uninvited -- straggle to the door, Clark tries to keep Anna calm and figure out what the signal has done to people and, more important, how to stop it. And then along comes Lewis, alternating between outbreaks of "the crazy" -- signal-induced paranoia and rage -- and lucid flashes during which he can analyze what's going on in his head.

Transmission III: Escape from Terminus (Bush), finds Ben and Clark in search of Mya as civilization crumbles around them. Could she be going to Terminal 13?

Members of a local film and theater collective called the "Dailies Project," indie filmmakers Bruckner, Gentry and Bush developed THE SIGNAL using a workshop exercise dubbed "Exquisite Corpse," after a Surrealist process for creating collaborative paintings. The filmmakers' team effort gives off strong echoes of Stephen King's Cell, David Cronenberg's THEY CAME FROM WITHIN (1975), George Romero's THE CRAZIES (1973), Danny Boyle's 28 DAYS LATER (2002) and even, curiously, Don McKellar's little-seen LAST NIGHT (1998). But it has a creepy power all its own, and their visions mesh with remarkable assurance. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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