A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this bloody horror movie is absolutely not for kids. It's packed with gruesome violence, weapons (gun, knife, garden shears, vehicles, poison), and repeated physical assaults by "crazed" TV viewers. Bodies are visible in building hallways and streets, there's a bloody decapitation, killers stagger like zombies, and there's lots of screaming and fleeing. Since the film doesn't have a specific perspective and frequently shifts between hallucinatory images, it can be physically difficult to watch. An early scene shows a naked male bottom and a woman in her underwear. Language includes frequent uses of "f--k" and other profanity.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Structured in three sections, THE SIGNAL follows several linked storylines. It begins with Mya (Anessa Ramsey) and Ben (Justin Welborn), imagining a future without her jealous husband, Lewis (AJ Bowen). But even though she wants to get on a train with her lover, Mya heads home to the dreary apartment she shares with Lewis -- where she finds him infected with an apparent viral "signal" sent through the TV that incites viewers to commit terrible violence. The signal seems unstoppable -- TVs begin turning themselves on -- and paranoid fantasies bleed into memories and seemingly actual exchanges of blood and fury as neighbors turn on friends and husbands on wives. The first part of the movie follows Mya's attempt to escape, the second focuses on Lewis' efforts to control of himself in front of strangers, and the third tracks Ben (or maybe Lewis) to the train station where Mya is supposed to be.
Is it any good?
Full of bloody bodies and brutal violence, The Signal might be mistaken for a run-of-the-mill humans-go-brutally-crazy horror movie. But it has something else on its mind: Namely, a somewhat abstract, sometimes darkly funny consideration of the effects of mass media on careless consumers. While the premise isn't exactly news, this take gets points for its wildly shifting perspectives. Almost any moment that appears to make sense, or even grant a coherent point of view, soon turns nightmarish, as if the channels are switching randomly. But of course, there's no randomness here, only very bloody calculation. Mya may or may not be protected by the fact that she's wearing headphones to listen to Ben's mix CD. Ben may or may not escape from Lewis. Lewis may or may not come to understand himself as the ultimate consumer, so determined to possess his wife that he can't live without her -- or with himself.
The movie takes occasional moments to let characters ponder their impossible new world, as when Mya's neighbor (Sahr Ngaujah) wonders whether he's monstrous when he kills monsters -- i.e. whether self-defense makes him "crazy." Or when Clark (Scott Poythress), sympathetic and rational, asserts his completely sensible paranoia ("Everyone's a suspect now"). Alas, just when Ben thinks he's figured out the signal, he's fooled again. "It's a lie, it's a trick," he says. "We change the way we look at things, the things we look at will change." It's as good a summary of what you've been looking at as you're likely to get.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: February 21, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: June 9, 2008
- Cast: AJ Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Justin Welborn
- Directors: Dan Bush, David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong brutal bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and brief nudity.