SIGNS. 2002. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN. STARRING MEL GIBSON, JOAQUIN PHOENIX AND RORY CULKIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I saw this film with a friend in an almost empty cinema back in 2002 and it was a terrifically atmospheric, spine-tingling experience. We clung to each other whenever the aliens were on-screen or just approaching. We giggled out loud at all the genuinely funny lines and we swooned together over the handsome manliness of Joaquin Phoenix. Oh, happy days…! I’ve nothing but good memories of this film so be warned, I won’t be saying anything bad about it in my review. Let the love-in commence, haha…!
Mel Gibson, whom I don’t actually fancy, strangely enough, even though half the female population of the world seems to, plays Graham Hess. He’s an ex-priest who stopped believing in God when his wife Colleen was killed in a car accident. He lives in a fantastic old farmhouse surrounded by acres and acres of creepy cornfields. Just why are cornfields so gosh-darned spooky, anyway? I guess it’s because there could be literally anything hiding in their densely leafy depths.
Graham shares his home with his children Morgan and Bo and his younger brother Merrill, a disillusioned ex-baseball player who now works in a gas station. Seems like neither of the Hess brothers is doing the job he truly wants to be doing, then…
Some mighty strange s**t is going down in them thar cornfields. The Hess brothers wake up one morning to find that someone- or something- has carved enormous and perfectly symmetrical crop circles into their fields. They’re too big to have been done by local yokels. The brothers turn on the television to find that the same thing has been happening all over the world, in addition to crazy lights in the sky and bird-squashing forcefields and God knows what else.
It doesn’t take people too long to figure out what’s going on. Extra-terrestrials are coming, and they ain’t of the cute little E.T. variety, either. They’re hostile. They want to ‘harvest’ the Earth and everyone on it. The Hess family barricade themselves into their basement and await the arrival of the aliens, for whom the crop circles serve both as a means of navigation and also as a sort of prelude to an invasion. Father Mel Gibson and his flock of three wee sheep wait it out in the cellar during their long dark night of the soul, but who will be left standing when the morning comes…? Watch the film and find out, dudes…
There are plenty of great scary scenes to watch out for. Father Mel Gibson in the cornfields at night while an alien ‘stalks’ him under cover of darkness. (‘Stalks…?’ See what I did there…?) Mel Gibson chopping off the fingers of the alien trapped in M. Night Shyamalan’s pantry. That’s right, the writer/director plays a small role in the film as the man who ran over Mel Gibson’s missus. Not one of the good guys then, I see…
There’s the accidental alien footage in the birthday party video-taping. There’s the horrible alien hand snaking under the front door while the Hess family hurry down to the basement. There’s the reflection of the alien in the television after he’s snatched up poor little asthmatic Morgan Hess. There’s the way that television coverage everywhere suddenly ceases and Father Mel Gibson, knowing that the alien invasion has begun, says: ‘It’s happening…’
That part always unnerves me. It’s the knowledge that the end of the world may just be coming and no-one, not your neighbours or town council or local politicians, not your government, no-one, is coming to your aid because no-one can. There is no-one to come. That’s the kind of thing that could happen and it scares me. Does it scare you…?
There’s a good bit of humour in the film too and, ultimately, a nice warm fuzzy feeling when we see that the family that battles extra-terrestrials together stays together. This is a brilliant film. I know that I’m utterly biased because of the happy memories I have of watching it in the cinema back in 2002 after having a lovely lunch in one of my favourite restaurants with one of my favourite people, but whatever, this is still a great fun scary film and you should definitely watch it. Don’t forget to wear your tinfoil hat when you watch it, though, because if you don’t they can read your mind, and you don’t want that. Do you…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: