Signs is a 2002 American science fiction thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Executive producers for the film comprised Shyamalan, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Sam Mercer. A joint collective effort to commit to the film's production was made by Blinding Edge Pictures and The Kennedy/Marshall Company. It was commercially distributed by Touchstone Pictures theatrically, and by Touchstone Home Entertainment in home media format.
The story focuses on a former Episcopal priest named Graham Hess, played by Mel Gibson, who discovers a series of crop circles in his cornfield. Hess slowly becomes convinced that the phenomena are a result of extraterrestrial life. It also stars Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin. Signs explores faith, kinship, and extraterrestrials.
Following its premiere in theatres nationwide on August 2, 2002, the film grossed $227,966,634 in domestic ticket receipts screening at 3,453 theatres during its widest release. It earned an additional $180,281,283 in business through international release, to top out at a combined $408,247,917 in gross revenue. The film was nominated for multiple awards, including those from the Online Film Critics Society and the Empire Awards. The film also won an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Considering its $72 million budget costs, the film was considered a strong financial success after its theatrical run, and was generally met with positive critical reviews, with critics praising its atmosphere and story but some critics criticizing aspects of the script.The high-definition Blu-ray Disc edition of the film featuring the director's audio commentary, the making of the film, and deleted scenes was released in the United States on June 3, 2008.The original motion picture soundtrack, which was composed by James Newton Howard, was released on the opening day by the Hollywood Records label.
The Hess family lives on an isolated farm in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) is a former priest whose wife, Colleen, died in a horrific traffic accident caused by a town local, Ray Reddy (Shyamalan). No longer practicing religiously, Graham lives with his asthmatic son, Morgan (Rory Culkin), daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin), who leaves water glasses all over the house claiming that the water tastes funny, and Graham's younger brother, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), a former minor league baseball star who never made it to the major leagues because he swung too hard and struck out too often. Graham discovers a huge crop circle in his field, reports of violent animal behavior have spread across town, and one of the Hess' dogs tries to attack Bo and Morgan.
Graham discovers that the farm is being watched at night, and he and Merrill chase a tall, dark figure from the roof of the barn and into the crops, where it quickly disappears. Meanwhile, crop circles similar to the one in Graham's field appear around the world. Morgan hears a strange noise on a baby monitor, but it stops before he can investigate further. That evening, Graham goes to the crop circle, and hears the sound again. After spotting a green leg sticking out of the cornrows, he flees to the house. A news report reveals that strange lights in the sky have been spotted over Mexico City.
That night, Graham reveals to Merrill that he lost his faith after the death of his wife. A flashback shows Graham approaching the scene of an accident. He sees his wife pinned to a tree by a truck, and the officer tells him that his wife won't live.
The following morning, Graham visits Ray Reddy's house, whom he finds bleeding. Ray apologizes for the accident, and tells Graham that he is fleeing to a nearby lake as he believes "they don't like water." Graham sadly and kindly accepts his apology, and Ray leaves. Meanwhile, Merril watches the news, and sees a video taken at a child's birthday party in Brazil. The footage shows an alien crouching behind bushes, then slowly walking from out the bushes and across a small alley where it disappears. Merril is shocked as the footage is shown. Back at Ray's house Graham goes into the kitchen, where Ray has an alien locked in his pantry. Graham uses the blade of a kitchen knife to try to see the alien's reflection under the door. When the alien attempts to grab at him through the crack at the floor, Graham reacts by cutting off some of the alien's fingers, causing the creature to scream in pain. Back at the Hess farm, Merril resorts to joining Morgan and Bo with their tin foil hats. Graham returns home and the family decides between going to the lake or staying at the farm, opting to board up all the doors and windows and remain in the house. While Graham and Merrill do this, Morgan and Bo watch a news report on the growing number of sightings around the world. The baby monitor again starts emitting the alien noises, and the television loses its signal. They finish boarding up the windows, and all move into the living room. One of the dogs, called Isobel, left tied up outside, barks loudly and is silenced, and an alien is heard climbing up the house and onto the roof, where it breaks into the attic. The family moves to the basement and props the door closed with a pick axe. Graham and Merrill ward off an alien that attacks Morgan, who then has an asthma attack. The news channel declares that the aliens have seemingly left earth.
The next morning, Graham decides to leave the basement and find Morgan's medicine. The family follows, and to their horror, find an alien still inside the house. It is revealed that it is the same alien from the pantry whose fingers Graham had cut off. The unconscious Morgan is again attacked by the alien and taken hostage. The alien acts as a predator and attempts to poison Morgan by releasing a toxin from its body, but because he is having an asthma attack (which prevents him fully from breathing), the poison doesn't get into his lungs. Graham remembers his wife's dying words, which were "Tell Merrill to swing away". He tells Merrill to "swing away" and Merrill attacks the alien with a baseball bat, and it releases Morgan. They discover that water reacts like acid with the alien's skin, and Merrill smashes all the water glasses Bo had left all over the house. Finally, Merrill hits the alien into furniture and water splashes on its face, killing it. Graham administers Morgan's medication, and the boy recovers.
Some time later, the Hess family has recovered from the incident and they appear to be doing much better than before. In the final scene, Graham is shown returning to his priestly duties, apparently having regained his faith.
Signs has received positive reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 74% gave positive appraisals, based on 225 reviews, ranking it "Certified Fresh". At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film scored a 59, based on 36 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, writing "M. Night Shyamalan's Signs is the work of a born filmmaker, able to summon apprehension out of thin air. When it is over, we think not how little has been decided, but how much has been experienced ... At the end of the film, I had to smile, recognizing how Shyamalan has essentially ditched a payoff. He knows, as we all sense, that payoffs have grown boring." Nell Minow of Common Sense Media gave the film four out of five stars; she highly praised the casting and Shyamalan's direction, saying his only flaw was not leaving anything to the audience's imagination.
Mike LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film one star out of four, feeling that the film had "few thoughts and no thrills." Variety 's Todd McCarthy criticised the film for its lack of originality, writing "After the overwrought Unbreakable and now the meager Signs, it's fair to speculate whether Shyamalan's persistence in replicating the otherworldly formula of The Sixth Sense might not be a futile and self-defeating exercise.
Signs grossed $227,966,634 domestically, $180,281,283 internationally, and $408,247,917 worldwide at the box office, ranking only behind The Sixth Sense in Shyamalan's box office success and grossing more than The Village and Unbreakable.